New Counsellors Arrive at SHS!


Savannah Landry, Staff Reporter

Among many new faces at Salida High School this year are Dawn Catalano and Mary Christensen, the new counselors who work hard to help every student achieve success. Although they are new to SHS, they are not new to Salida. Catalano has lived here for seven years and Christensen grew up here. Before being hired at SHS, Catalano worked at Salida Montessori Charter School as a school counselor.

Christensen doesn’t live in Salida currently, but she is quite familiar with the community. She has worked all around Colorado. She worked first in Canon City for seven years and then in Cotopaxi for another ten. Last year, she worked as a paraprofessional at Longfellow Elementary School, and then this job opportunity came up and she decided to apply. 

“I knew absolutely that it was where I wanted to be,” Christensen said. 

Even though she wasn’t looking to change jobs, Catalano ended up here after she met the staff and learned more about how this year was going to go. 

“With concurrent enrollment, all of the exciting changes for the curriculum, and the way the school is focusing on the graduation requirements by raising the bar a little bit, it was just really exciting,” she said.  

Originally, Catalano is from Pennsylvania, where she stayed for college and attended the Indiana University of Pennsylvania to receive her undergraduate degree. 

Christensen, on the other hand, went to Western State, just on the other side of Monarch Pass, where she got her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in elementary education. She later went back to school at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS) where she got her Master’s degree in counseling with an emphasis in school counseling. 

The program Christensen attended at UCCS was helpful in educating her on how to work as a counselor but she definitely thinks there are many things that can’t be taught without experience. 

“You don’t know until you are actually doing the job,” Christensen stated.

 Since working at Salida High School, Christensen has really grown to love the students and learns everyday how to better service the needs of the community. Every job comes with frequent challenges, but one of the harder challenges to her has been realizing that there is not always a fix to some problems. 

“I wish I could have a magic wand and any situation that came up that I could just figure it out and fix it and it’s hard when I don’t have the fix because I want to be able to,” she said. 

After receiving her undergraduate degree, Catalano went on to work in a group home with teens.

“I really found that to be rewarding work, but the schedule was challenging because we were on call through the nights, and it was just really hard to do other things,” Catalano said. 

Because of this, Catalano later attended the University of Pittsburgh to earn her Master’s degree in counseling. 

¨I decided to go back to school and get my Master’s degree in Counseling and focus on schools, so I could work with young people and also be on a regular work schedule,¨ Catalano said.

Even though her work schedule became more manageable after receiving her Master’s, there are still many challenges that come with being a school counselor. Many of which are similar to the challenges that teachers sometimes struggle with. 

¨The work we are assigned sometimes feels like it’s never possible to get it all done and do it well,¨ Catalano explained. 

Despite these challenges, both Christensen and Catalano expressed their love for their job. 

¨It’s really exciting getting to help students discover those opportunities, and also, in terms of counseling, I feel like young people are much more willing to learn and become better people, and so it’s great to see them develop into the best person they can be,¨ Catalano said. 

One of Christensen’s favorite parts of her job is being someone that students can come to if they need help. 

“I love being a support person during the good times and the bad times, the challenges and the easier stuff. I just really enjoy every part of my job, the relationships, the connections I’m able to make,” she said. 

Both counselors are a great addition to our school community and we look forward to seeing the many ways that they will impact all of our lives. We are forever thankful for their help and support.