New counseling jobs, back home at Terrace

By Theresa Van

With the upcoming school year finally here, new changes to the school have been made. One of the many dramatic changes will be the replacement of two of MTHS’ beloved counselors, Tanya Benvenuti and Julianne Petterson. 

According to Principal Greg Schellenberg, former lead counselor Benvenuti will be a counselor at Granite Falls High School (GFHS) in the Granite Falls School District for the new school year. Because Benvenuti’s commute from her home in Granite Falls to MTHS took over an hour each day, whereas her commute to GFHS is five minutes, Benvenuti couldn’t pass up the offer. 

Benvenuti, a former Terrace graduate and counselor for over 20 years, had a hard time parting ways with the school considering her long history with it and the community. 

Petterson on the other hand, decided to retire. In her previous years working as a community drug and alcohol counselor, she had been working at Terrace for approximately the past 13-14 years. At Terrace, she has gotten involved in not just counseling, but came to be the adviser for school’s National Honors Society (NHS) as well.

Principal Schellenberg claimed Petterson, as part of her first stages of retirement, has gone on a several week Grand Canyon rafting trip as a away to “go off in style.” The school was informed of her plans of retirement early on in the year, so administration  had time in advance to find a replacement. 

Taking the place of Benvenuti will be former Edmonds Woodway High School (EWHS) counselor Rebecca Brennan. This school year will not be Brennan’s first year at Terrace, as Brennan started her counseling career here for a couple of years until she took her job at EWHS. According to Schellenberg, Brennan had always planned on coming back to Terrace since she was also a Terrace graduate. 

Taking the place of Petterson will be former Meadowdale High School (MHS) counselor Amy Wiskerchen. Wiskerchen started off as an elementary school counselor in the Peninsula School District and then moved to Kent and worked at a mix of middle and high schools for 15 years. 

I love just really getting into that with kids and figuring out what makes them tick and figuring out how I can help them get to where they want to be because they have so many different ideas but I haven’t quite figured out how to harness that yet. ”

— Amy Wiskerchen

Although being a middle school counselor was “super fun” with tons of student interaction, Wiskerchen enjoys being a high school counselor far more.  

“High school is definitely a better fit for me.” Wiskerchen said. “It’s more paperwork which isn’t much fun, but I like watching kids grow out of that early adolescence thing and looking more towards adulthood and figuring out what they want to do with their lives and really helping them do that, so that’s kinda fun.” 

Aside from the fun aspect of the job, she also felt it is easier to talk to high schoolers about more mature topics such as LGBT issues or the existential meaning of life that students may find a hard time grasping.

“I love just really getting into that with kids and figuring out what makes them tick and figuring out how I can help them get to where they want to be because they have so many different ideas but haven’t quite figured out how to harness that yet,” Wiskerchen said.

Around May of the last school year, MHS administration cut the counseling hours. In order to make up work for the reduction in hours, the counselors discussed with each other and decided that one of them would have to take the cut and transfer to preserve work hours for the other counselors. Originally the counselor selected for the cut was a brand new counselor at MHS who was just getting started with his career. Wiskerchen, however, felt it wouldn’t be fair to cut him after his first year, so she volunteered instead, a decision which freed her up to move to MTHS. That was convenient in a way, as MTHS is Wiskerchen’s neighboring school, which made it easy for her to transfer. 

“It kinda is just a little stressful learning how this school does things and unlearning how my last school did things,” Wiskerchen said. “Sorta feeling new but not really being new, it’s kinda confusing sometimes.”

Despite the stress, Wiskerchen is very excited to get to know the school, the climate and be able to bring new things to this school that aren’t already here such. One of her many ideas is a cheerleading squad for students with disabilities since at her previous school she coached a squad of her own. Wiskerchen is, however, nervous due to the immense amount of things she’ll have to learn and get accustomed to in the coming year, as she hopes she’ll stay at Terrace for a long time. And because MTHS has a lot of students and a lot of different programs, she has a long way to go. 

When Wiskerchen visited the school back in June, she said it “instantly felt like home.” And although she and Brennan haven’t gotten much of a chance to get to know each other that well due to how busy they were over the summer assembling student schedules, she claimed of the staff she did meet that “everyone was super nice and welcoming”. 

Wiskerchen hopes throughout the year she’ll be able to gain her students’ trust, not mess up anyone’s graduation and hopes to be able to learn everything she needs to learn to provide for her students. 

Because both of these counselors are academically driven and are strong veterans in counseling, Schellenberg predicts that the students will see that they are two very confident and competent counselors. 

“I think they are gonna see that these women are both confident and competent… I get reference checks so what you hear is hardworking, passionate about the kids that they work with,” Schellenberg said.  “One of Amy’s administrators in Kent told me ‘you are getting an All-Star,’ which is great…I think change is always an opportunity.”