Erin Dufault has been a high school counselor for 17 years, but nothing in her career could have prepared her for this pandemic moment. Now in her fourth year at Mount Abraham Union High School — which, like the other middle and high schools in our area, has embraced a hybrid model of remote and in-person learning — she sees students in person just two days a week. But she is making the most of that time.
Like pretty much everyone everywhere, she has had to pivot. She used to provide daily support to students in her office, in hallways and cafeterias, and at college information nights.
When school buildings were abruptly closed last March, Dufault sprang into action, according to Mount Abe Assistant Principal Justin Bouvier. She set up a home office and invited students to contact her with any needs. “She reached out to every student on her caseload to check on their wellbeing,” he said.
These days she is the one at the school’s front entrance every morning, checking students’ temperatures, helping them fill out their health questionnaires, and reassuring them that they’re safe.
“It seems like so long ago that we were in a regular school year,” she said.
Dufault said she’s trying to spend as much time as possible meeting with students on their in-person days this fall. But she has also harnessed new technology so she can reach kids in their homes through Zoom. And when that doesn’t work, over the phone. “We’re really working hard to offer the same services and supports, but just through different technology,” she said. “I’m doing a lot more intentional planning with individuals.”
There have been bumps in the road, Dufault acknowledged. She and administrators have worked hard to troubleshoot access issues for some families. But students and families have been really open to meeting in whatever way they can. “I’m grateful to be working together with them,” she said.
When asked what advice she might offer parents and kids who are struggling right now, Dufault said, “One of the most important things we can do is work as a team. Reach out and partner with the school. We can collaborate together, we can come up with a plan to meet a student’s needs.”
“Overall,” she added, “I’m approaching each situation with an open heart and some patience and flexibility and really trying to meet students and families where they are.”