Introduction: We are excited to continue our popular Educator Spotlight series, and also to expand it to feature both classroom and office educators who are the heart of Gibbons. In doing so, we offer readers a glimpse of how Gibbons educators care for and engage students, forming them as men and women of faith, service, and leadership in church and community. We launch the series this year by spotlighting College Counselor Susan Ellis.
College pennants fittingly decorate the file cabinet in the office of College Counselor Susan Ellis. On this recent Thursday afternoon, she is seated next to Sumeetha Jagadeesan ’20 at a round table set in the middle of the room.
“What I offer students is a safe space to process feelings and discuss situations that get in the way of their focus on school." Susan Ellis, college counselor.
The senior is chatting with Ellis about her resume and the different colleges she is applying to this year. She also is soaking in what Ellis offers students navigating their senior year in high school – advice and guidance about the stress of the college admissions process and the roller coaster of emotions that accompany it.
Ellis, a college counselor at Gibbons for 14 years, is her students’ chief advocate. She is there for them through the entire journey, alleviating tension over deadlines and to-do lists, choosing a college that matches their passions, and selecting a major that brings them joy.
Face-to-face sessions, however, are just one part of her work as a counselor. On another day Ellis is presenting the “nuts and bolts” of the college application process to a class of seniors.
Friendly and upbeat, Ellis opened the lesson with a question: “How do you feel about college?” Stressed, excited, anxious, the seniors shot back. “We are here to help,” she responded.
Together with colleagues from Gibbons College Counseling, Ellis not only offered help but also opened a world of possibilities to the seniors. Throughout the lesson, she walked around the room, providing one-on-one attention to students with questions or concerns.
Ellis also helps students through the myriad challenges of high school life. She is the consummate listener and advises them in the calm, collected way that is her trademark, one that includes a hefty dose of compassion and empathy.
She builds relationships with her students and supports them in their journey from high school to college.
“What I offer students,” Ellis said, “is a safe space to process feelings and discuss situations that get in the way of their focus on school.
"The goal,” she continued, “is that students return to the classroom with the ability to focus on their main job – learning.”
When Sumeetha Jagadeesan was ready to leave Ellis’ office, she was armed with insights, self-confidence, and a huge parting hug.