New Director of School Counseling: Mrs. Ackermann

New Director of School Counseling: Mrs. Ackermann

When I walk into the main office, I can already hear voices from the head counselor’s office. Lunch break started about five minutes ago, but Marissa Ackermann is already working with a student, discussing options for science classes. An open door and listening ear are two defining characteristics of Mrs. Ackermann, the new director of school counseling. 

To create student-counselor relationships, especially after turnover in the department during recent years, Mrs. Ackermann wants to get counselors out of the office. 

“It’s on counselors to show that they’re invested in students,” she says. Having counselors stand in the hallways in the morning and see students outside of once a year conferences are ways that counselors can cultivate connections with students. 

But it’s not all on the counselors: Mrs. Ackermann wants students to know that guidance counselors are there to listen. In fact, she considers it one of the most valuable parts of her job.

“Student voice is the most important thing that we can help students achieve,” Mrs. Ackermann emphasized. She believes that counselors are responsible for cultivating student independence at every level, whether it’s preparing elementary students for middle school or getting seniors ready for life after high school.

 And that includes teaching self-advocacy and encouraging students to share their goals for improving the school.

“I have ideas, but I don’t live it every day,” Mrs. Ackermann said. Student input is invaluable to her, but she still has plans for the district.

Those ideas include creating more opportunities for vocational education at VHS.

As the school considers adding more vocational elements to its curriculum, Mrs. Ackermann says students should get the chance to “try on careers.” Existing programs like the senior Capstone internships give students access to real world career experiences.

 Mrs. Ackermann also brought up the possibility of guest speakers coming into core classes to discuss career options, such as professionals that work with primary documents talking with history classes.

Looking at resources outside the district, VHS facilitates half-day programs with vocational schools in the area, and some students attend morning classes here before taking vocational courses in the afternoon. 

Before coming to VHS, Mrs. Ackermann worked for the Union County Vocational Technical Schools for ten years, experience that prepared her for handling challenges like this.

Prior to her work in high schools, Mrs. Ackermann worked in student counseling at the university level, at institutions like Seton Hall University and Boston College. 

BC is also her alma mater, where she got her bachelor’s in counseling.

After attending school and working in Boston for several years, Mrs. Ackermann came back to New Jersey, where she had grown up in East Rutherford. In New Jersey, she earned her master’s degree in counseling.

With her schedule filled by school responsibilities and taking care of the family she’s raised in Rutherford, Mrs. Ackermann laughs when asked what she does in her spare time.

“My eleven year old son is into theater and improv, and my five year old plays soccer. We [herself and her husband] are usually either in the theater or on a field!”