Teacher Tuesday: MCC’s Joan Vidak. 

December 15, 2020

Teacher Tuesday: MCC’s Joan Vidak. 

By Kate Krieger-Watkins, staff writer.

Teacher Tuesday is a presentation of Shelby State Bank, www.shelbystatebank.com with offices in Ludington, Pentwater, Shelby, Hart, Hesperia, Manistee, Montague, Whitehall, North Muskegon, and Fruitport. 

SCOTTVILLE – Watching students grow is one of Mason County Central High School guidance counselor’s Joan Vidak favorite things about her job. Vidak, a 1987 grad of MCC, doesn’t have a teaching degree, but she sure has a lot of experience working in education.

“I started working out of college, for three years at Staircase Runaway and Youth Services as an agency counselor in all of the Mason County schools,” she said. “An opening came up at Mason County Central High School, I applied and now have been here for 26 years. First as the high school at-risk director and later as the guidance counselor.”

Vidak said without a little help from a special mentor, she wouldn’t have been as successful in her early years as she was.

“I became the high school guidance counselor in 2003, after my mentor Beverly Fogarty retired,’ she said. “I was very fortunate to work alongside Bev for several years before stepping into this position, that really helped me to understand the expectations and timelines instead of being completely ‘new’ to the position.”

Vidak graduated from MCC in 1987. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology/sociology in 1991 from Western Michigan University and a master’s in the art of teaching in 2001 from Aquinas College. She also received her certification for school counseling (NT) from Central Michigan University in 2001.

In order to be a school guidance counselor in the State of Michigan, one must receive a master’s degree and the NT certification.

Once Vidak began her guidance counselor role at MCC, she quickly found it to be very rewarding and she realized she had made the right move in her career and schooling.

“I have always loved working with students,” she said. “Watching them work towards their goals and knowing that I can be a small part of helping them achieve those goals is what drives me. Helping motivate students to graduate from high school, assisting them as they get accepted to their top choice college or receive a scholarship makes it all worthwhile. I found early on that what I really enjoy is working with students individually or in small groups. Although I have a teaching certificate, having a classroom full of students on a daily basis is not my strength. I feel like I get more accomplished when I can work individually with students and I love what I do.”

No two days are the same in her role, Vidak said, which is why she really enjoys the diversity that her job brings. She also has fun learning aside her students as they visit different places, searching for possible future career or college choices as well.

“My job works more in ‘seasons,’” she said. “There are times for scheduling, college applications, writing letters of recommendation, financial aid, testing, career exploration, Career & Technical Education (CTE) visits, dual enrollment information. Sprinkled into those seasons are student counseling, tracking student credits, pupil accounting, providing referral information for families, networking with military recruiters, college representatives and local agencies. My day may include speaking in a classroom, working in my office or being present in a meeting. I never really know what is going to happen each day, I just take one day at a time and enjoy whatever adventures come my way.”

Vidak said a lot of times the students don’t always know what her complete role is at the school and they often refer to her in a specific way.

“I am often referred to by students as the ‘scheduling person,’” she said. “I try hard to overcome that title because there is so much more to what I do each day. I do indeed create student schedules, however I can help students in so many other ways. I am often found working ‘behind the scene’ in my office, so people just know that things get done and may not realize how it happened.”

The 2020-2021 school-year is very different than years past and Vidak has had to figure out new ways to work with students, both in-person and from a distance, but she remains positive and keeps moving forward, even with so many unknowns.

“I find every year to be a new adventure and this one is no exception,” she said. “When we came back in the fall, school looked different, but it was so nice to see the students again and be able to talk with them. I missed it more than I anticipated. Now that we are virtual again, it’s hard. Sorting through hundreds of emails is not quite as fun as talking face to face with students. I have learned a lot more about technology in the last few months that I ever thought possible.  It’s always a work in progress, but as with every challenge, we will get through it.”

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