Faculty in Focus: Heidi Pierce, Middle School Counselor
Posted 03/25/2021 09:00AM


1. You have a Master of Education in School Counseling from Lewis and Clark College in Oregon. What led you to pursue school counseling?
School counseling is the perfect blend of two things I love: education and helping others. Before pursuing my Master of Education in School Counseling, I realized that I spent a lot of time helping students reactively – seeing a problem and coming up with a "Band-Aid solution" to get them through. I realized I wanted to be in a role that helped students proactively build skills, identify issues that might cause problems for them, understand themselves as humans and learners, and advocate for themselves in the school setting. School counseling allows me to do this.

2. How does school counseling look different at Graded than at other schools in which you have worked? 
The biggest difference I notice here is how the community values the role of the counselor. The Graded community is eager to seek a counselor for support, consultation, and/or collaboration. Sometimes the stigma around "seeing a counselor" impedes people from seeking support. That is not the case here. At Graded, I feel like we are viewed as an integral part of the school, helping students to achieve success. I also appreciate that if a counselor has an idea that could promote belonging, student success, or well-being, we receive the green light to move forward with the idea. Graded trusts me as a professional, and I appreciate that.

3. What are the parts of your job that other people might not know about?
There are so many. I guess the biggest piece is that a school counselor does not provide therapy. We help students access therapy, but we are not the providers. The terms "counseling" and "therapy," often used interchangeably, are different skill sets with different outcomes. Another piece of my role is that you have to perfect the "counseling face," which means staying neutral at all costs without verbal affirmations, head nods or shakes, or any sort of agreeing or disagreeing. I use it on my husband a lot, to his displeasure! pleased. 

4. How do you explain your role to students and community members?
The best way to explain my role is that I am a helper. My job is to make sure that students feel safe at Graded, and I am there to help them with that. This can mean physical or emotional safety and looks different for every individual. I also explain that my job is to be a questioner. It is not about providing the solution for anyone's problem but instead asking the right questions to help them arrive at their own solutions. 

5. What is one thing that you're currently passionate about?
Well, recently, it has been trail running. My amazing sister is a trail runner in the States, and she has encouraged me to start doing races, as well. Trail running is the perfect blend of movement and nature – all with my favorite running partner (my husband) by my side. I am so passionate about it that during a race in October, I fell and broke my patella but kept running to finish the course. So, now I am passionate about healing to get back out to the trails and become an even stronger racer and runner.

6. As a child, what was your idea of fun?
Anything that involved being outside. My sister and I had all sorts of amazing outdoor "hobbies." They included collecting and analyzing bugs, harvesting tree sap, building forts in the old cow feeders, fishing in the stream on our property, making perfume from random flowers and plants, digging in the compost piles for worms for said fishing, riding dirt bikes and quads around the property, helping my dad in his shop, riding horses, and more. Fun was anything that involved creativity, doing, making, and being outside with my awesome brothers and sister. 

7. Would you enjoy a month all alone in an isolated, beautiful, and safe place with food and shelter provided? Why or why not?
I know I could do it because I know I am capable of doing hard things. However, I would not enjoy it because I would be without my husband, who is my best friend, my partner in crime, and the person who keeps me grounded and in a good mental headspace. If I could find a way to bring him (and frescobol) to the island, then sure, I would be ready. 


8. Have you discovered a spot in São Paulo that you think everyone should visit at least once?
One of my favorite places is the back garden at Museu da Casa Brasileira. Pre-COVID, the museum had something in the garden each weekend - live music, craft or food festivals, kids weekends with entertainment and acts, garden shows, and more. It is a nice place to go and just sit and be. Even though you are in the middle of the city, it feels like a slice of nature and stillness with great people watching. I am eager to visit again when the world opens back up. 

9. Are you more of a rule keeper or a rule breaker? 
Rule follower. Full stop. I start sweating, simply thinking about breaking the rules. I wish I could be more rebellious, but my middle-child, people-pleaser instincts are too strong.

10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
The energy. Being on campus provides an energy that is hard to explain. I think it is a combination of the amazing humans, the beautiful grounds, the dedicated staff who keep our space clean, safe, and green, the excitement in the classrooms and on the fields, the strong coffee and delicious meals prepared for us, and the palpable love of education that makes this place buzz. Even on "off days," it is hard not to pick up on the positive energy and feel a little bit better when you arrive on campus. It really is a unique place to work and learn, eh?!?

Av. José Galante, 425
São Paulo, SP - Brazil - 05642-000
+55 11 3747 4800
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