December 30, 2018

Mrs. Schenker is guiding us forward

Hannah Stoch ‘22



The job of a high school guidance counselor is always evolving, both due to the changing needs of students and new technology and Elisa Schenker is caught in the middle of it all.
In September 1995, her days were occupied at her new job as a counselor at Golda Och Academy – then Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union – with meeting students face-to-face and flagging down teachers in the hallways. Fast forward 24 years and all she has to do to contact someone is shoot them an email.
“It was definitely easier to connect with people when I wasn’t attached to my computer.”
Schenker originally only worked with the eighth and ninth grade and focused on the transition to high school and the integration of new students. As Schenker’s child and the children of the other guidance counselors started attending Golda Och, the system needed to be reworked in a way so the students were not paired with their parents as counselors. Instead of working with specific grades, the guidance counselors started working with specific graduating classes.
Schenker and the other guidance counselors acknowledged the benefits of following particular grades as they progressed.
“Even now, when none of us have children in the school, it still feels like a bonus to me,” Schenker said.
Schenker enjoys getting to know specific groups of students and watching them progress. It’s also easier for students if they don’t have to switch guidance counselors every two years.
There was a lot more face-to-face communication when Schenker first started at the school. Currently, whenever students have a question, they can send her an email. She said she recognizes email can be more efficient than physically tracking people down. It’s easier than ever to contact students and involve parents, as well.
However, email has “created a philosophy that we are accessible 24 hours a day.” Schenker believes that expecting instantaneous responses to their problems from her has led students to not working thoroughly through their problems and only consider them superficially.
Due to newer technology and students’ constant use of social media, Schenker has held meetings for both students and parents to discuss its ever-growing use in society.
Lori Jaffe, a fellow guidance counselor, has worked on these presentations, as well.
“When [we] first started, it wasn’t an issue,” Jaffe said. “And now it’s evolved into a big challenge.”
While technology has altered Schenker’s job, it is not the only cause of change.
“[My] job description is somewhat open and has, I think, in many ways become less defined,” Schenker said. “The level of support and responsibilities has grown significantly.”
Her job is to be a resource for students. She does everything from fixing schedules to helping clean out messy lockers.
Schenker is an essential part of the Golda Och community.
“She’s so [much] fun, loves her work, loves working with the students, open to learning, open to changing,” Jaffe said. “We work really well together and we have a lot of fun.”

When asked for words of advice for students, Schenker encourages students to “take advantage of all the opportunities that are available in high school here, including the support system that’s in place.”

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