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.
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!!