Members Spotlight: Susan Sherman, Kalispell Middle School
Years Experience: 25, part and full time
Where you attended graduate school: College of Santa Fe, NM
1. Share a little more about you: Where you are from? Hobbies/Interests? I am originally from Royal Oak, MI, a suburb of Detroit. I graduated from Eastern Michigan University, BS in PE/Health. I enjoy painting, (acrylics and watercolor), lifting weights, Nordic skiing, mountain biking (especially bike packing sections of the Great Divide Trail), rock climbing, hiking and backpacking.
2. What compelled you to be a school counselor or led you to where you are today? I was teaching Health and Drugs and Alcohol Prevention to high risk high school students on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The students encouraged me to go into counseling because I listened to them and didn’t judge them.
3. Favorite aspect of your job? I am an introvert and enjoy listening and learning about others. I like hearing the stories of students’ lives (and adults) and helping them discover ways to solve problems or cope with difficult situations where they often don’t have a lot of power. I love how enthusiastic and energetic middle school students are. If I am having a tough day, all I have to do is walk into the halls and in 4 minutes time, I feel much better.
4. Particularly memorable program, intervention, group, lesson you’ve implemented that you believe made an impact with your students/staff? I facilitated an Addicted Others group a few years ago with 8th graders. One student’s dad died the year before and several months later, the mom (who was an alcoholic) attempted suicide (she survived). The student was living with her aunt and uncle, near the school, but wasn’t coming to school, months after the suicide attempt. The other group members wanted to go to her house if she didn’t show up for the next group meeting. With permission from the aunt and uncle who were struggling with getting her back in school, I brought the group to her. We arrived with donuts and coffee/hot chocolate and had a group session on asking for help plus accepting help from others. She returned to school knowing she had at least 5 friends who could help her get through each day. She stayed in school, eventually moved back in with her mom and little brother, and graduated high school.
5. Favorite part of the spring/fall conference? Learning from the professionals who present, talking and collaborating with others from across the state, and the car ride with colleagues.
6. Memorable moment in your career? I cry on the last day of school every 3 years after parading through the halls with “my students” one last time. Our band teacher leads the parade playing his trombone, dressed as Prince or Elvis and all of the 6th and 7th grade students stand in the hall applauding them for their “graduating” middle school. My heart feels full of hope for so many who have shared some of the most painful moments of their lives with me.
Michael Sherman, Flathead High School
Years Experience: 16 -school counselor, 7 -teacher, 3-school prevention specialist, 8-fitness/wellness director
Where you attended graduate school: University of Montana & Colorado State University
1. Share a little more about you: Where are you from? Hobbies/Interests? I grew up in Ohio, west of Cleveland along Lake Erie. In college I competed in gymnastics at Eastern Michigan University, where I graduated with a BS in Education - PE/Health/Biology. Then I wanted to move out west to enjoy the mountains, so I earned a M.S. in Exercise Science from Colorado State University. In the 1990’s I worked for the Santa Fe Schools Drug/Violence Prevention Program doing support groups and experiential activities with all age groups. This experience along with living vicariously through Susan, my school counselor wife, prompted me to pursue a second Master’s degree in School Counseling through the University of Montana, while I was teaching PE/Health and Science at Polson High School. For the past 16 years I have been a counselor at Flathead High School in Kalispell. When I am not at school, I try to spend time outdoors Nordic and backcountry skiing, mountain biking & bike packing,, rock climbing, hiking, paddling and backpacking. I love living in Montana with its many playgrounds to enjoy all these activities.
2. What compelled you to be a school counselor or led you to where you are today? My school counselor wife along with my diverse experiences in education.
3. Favorite aspect of your job? Feeling I have helped or supported a student. Teenagers don’t often thank you for offering assistance, but sometimes I can sense I have been of service, which is satisfying.
4. Particularly memorable program, intervention, group, lesson you’ve implemented that you believe made an impact with your students/staff? Hearing a student after ten weekly support group meetings, say they really liked having nine other people in the building who really knew her. They weren’t her frequent friends, but it was so supportive to know when she saw these people or was in a class with them, they understood her without saying anything. They just need a look of acknowledgement.
5. Favorite part of the spring/fall conference? Camaraderie with other counselors and experiencing presentations targeted specifically at school counseling, which tend to be rare elsewhere.
6. Memorable moment in your career? The many moments students have felt comfortable enough with me to share their pain and their joy. I am honored to hear their stories. When former students come back to visit or when I see them somewhere in the community and they express their appreciation.