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May 2018 Newsletter: Employee Spotlights—Eileen Blattner & Mary Lynne McGovern

When Shaker Heights High School Guidance Department chair Eileen Blattner and her colleague, academic advisor Mary Lynne McGovern, retire next month, they’ll have a combined 81 years of experience with Shaker Schools. Both women have longstanding ties and devotion to Shaker: Mrs. Blattner went to Shaker Schools, graduated from the High School in 1963 and is a member of the Shaker Heights High School Hall of Fame. Mrs. McGovern has been a longtime resident whose three children attended Shaker Schools, as well as three of her grandchildren. Most important, they both share an unwavering devotion to the countless High School students they have guided, mentored and supported over the years. Read our Employee Spotlight with Eileen Blattner and with Mary Lynne McGovern.

Eileen Blattner

What’s been your path through Shaker Schools?

I began my career in Shaker as a part-time Learning Disabilities tutor in 1970, and went full-time in 1977.  I taught first, third, and fifth grades, then moved to the High School in 1985. I had my Masters and certification in Guidance and Counseling and wanted to utilize these skills.  I think being an elementary school teacher gave me understanding and patience and the ability to work with parents. Having my own children gave me and insight into teenagers.

You’ve had so many interactions with admissions officers and from high school counselors around the country. What have you learned from them?

After my first year at the High School, I attended a summer institute at Harvard where I interacted with many college representatives as well as counselors from other high schools.  Since then, I have attended similar institutes around the country. The counselors shared great ideas that help to improve the way we disseminated information, and the representatives helped us pass on information that enable students to improve their records.  Experiences like these were incredible in terms of networking. Our students benefited greatly.

What’s been most rewarding about your job? 

I have had so many rewarding experiences!  One example is helping a student go forward with his life’s plan when he did not think it possible.  The challenge of helping students get through difficult times, is another. There have been countless student who have been depressed and anxious, who really struggle.  With the counselors, assistant principals, and teachers’ support, we help them work through the issues. I love seeing my former students in the community. It is always satisfying to see them as adults contributing positively to our world.  I actually decided to retire when I saw so many of these students back at the high school with their own children!

What’s next for you? 

I really don’t know for certain, but for next year I plan to assist my present juniors who want support with the college process.  I have given them my cell phone number and my email. We agreed to meet at a coffee shop or a library to work on their applications.These are my “kids” and I have a lot invested in them!

With so many years working as a High School guidance counselor, what’s the advice you’d give to incoming freshmen? 

I would emphasize taking challenging courses, that are not overwhelming.  To be successful, they should take advantage of our resources such as after school conferences, study groups and the Academic Resource Center. Doing homework every night is essential! They need to check ProgressBook regularly, but not obsessively.  They should go to the Activity Fair the first week of school. It is important to find clubs, activities and sports that they really want to do (not just ones that they hear might look good on a college app).  The camaraderie the students find, as well as the confidence and leadership skills they build, are invaluable. I would suggest they build a relationship with their counselor, and collaborate with them, so they can help them navigate the waters and make the most of all opportunities. I would tell them to find great summer programs. I would remind them that friends are very important and that their parents are NOT their enemies!!

Mary Lynne McGovern

What brought you to the District in 1978?

I was hired by the District, with funding from a grant, to help implement the PUSH Excel program,  an initiative started by Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition, to focus more attention on African American student achievement. Eventually, the work I was doing was absorbed into District programming. I continued meeting  with students who were highly capable but who needed extra attention and academic support. I monitored their grades and counseled them on what they needed to do in order to become achieving students.

For years, you’ve been the Minority Achievement Committee, or MAC Scholars advisor. Tell us about the history of the MAC Scholars.

In 1990, we had a Faculty Achievement Committee whose goal was to narrow the achievement gap.  We were stunned to learn that, at the time, 70% of the African American male students entering 9th grade had a C average or below. We knew that we couldn’t have this information in our hands and ignore it.  So we shared the study with eight African American male students who were enrolled in Honors and Advanced Placement classes. We told them that we needed to do something about this, but we needed their help to understand why this was happening. I still remember that we invited them to a meeting and right away, they stopped talking to us and started talking to each other. We let them talk and asked them to come to our next meeting to continue their discussion. They came back and then finally, they turned to us and said, “we have to do something about this.” They told us that the younger students were tired of listening to their parents and teachers. They said they didn’t want adults telling them what to do. They told us that they’ve been in those students’ shoes and they said that THEY needed to lead and develop the program themselves.  

So those students started MAC Scholars?

They did. We spent the next semester talking about how this program should look and Hubert McIntyre became my partner in this effort.  Out of those conversations, this group of students decided to set up meetings with the 9th graders who were identified as Potential Scholars.  They decided to call themselves the Minority Achievement Committee (MAC Scholars).These eight juniors and seniors then invited 25 freshman to attend a meeting   That was in 1991. Shortly after they’d been meeting, the Scholars felt that they needed a pledge that would tell who they were and what they stood for. So one of the Scholars, Glen Hunter, wrote it and they all thought it was perfect.  They didn’t change a word. The Scholars met with the Potential Scholars every two weeks, just as they do to this day. today.

What’s been rewarding about your work at the High School with the MAC Scholars?

I feel like I’ve been a part of something that worked.  But frankly, there have been a lot of people who have supported this, including the administration and the faculty.  I feel a devotion to these students because they’ve all grown into leaders and they have gained confidence as speakers. They care about the younger males coming behind them and they want them to be successful.  It really matters to them. The Scholars are the ones who have made the difference and it’s a joy to watch these young men do their work with the younger students, who look up to them..

They are highly respected and they are devoted to this mission. Because that’s what it is: a mission. It’s truly remarkable.

What’s next for you?

I’ll be around to help with the transition to whomever advises the MAC Scholars next. After that, I don’t know. All of my energy is still here and to transfer that to something else that I care just as much about will be a challenge. I’ll definitely travel and spend time with my family. I feel sad about retiring but I know it’s time to turn this over to someone else who feels the same commitment and will take the MAC Scholars program to the next level. Whatever I do next, I know that I’ll have to have the same passion that I have for MAC Scholars. This has been an experience that will stay with me forever.

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