Good Talk: Mrs. Insana

Meet the NASH counselor who never lets an October pass without watching Hocus Pocus… maybe twice!

Halle Marsalis, Staff Writer

How long have you been a counselor at NASH?

Officially, it is my second year as a school counselor at NASH. Although last year was my first year, the challenges the pandemic brought and being remote a great part of the year definitely makes this year feel like a first year as well. This is my sixth year as a school counselor. For my first four years, I was the high school counselor at Washington High School in Washington, PA. 

What made you want to become a school counselor?

I remember wanting to go into education and also being very interested in mental health counseling. After graduating with my degree in counseling, I was able to work in the mental health field for a while. My position as a school-based therapist motivated me to go back to school and get my school counseling certification. I am so glad that I made that decision because being a school counselor has been very rewarding!

What is the hardest thing about being a school counselor?

I would have to say that the hardest thing is learning how to be flexible and being able to gracefully transition from one thing to another. There is a very wide range of things that school counselors are a part of on any given day, and no one day is alike. You can come into the office with a must-do list and get none of it done because the day had something else in mind for you.

How many letters of recommendation do you write each year?

Last year, I wrote about 80 letters of recommendations. Right now, I have written about 25 and have another 20 to get done this week. Every day a few more come in. 

What all goes into being a school counselor?

Counselors wear a lot of hats and work to maximize students’ success. School counselors help students with academics (schedule, credits toward graduation, concerns with academic progress, attendance concerns) social/emotional concerns (stressors, anxiety, etc.) and post-secondary planning (explore careers, programs of interest, colleges, understanding application process, sending transcripts, SAT/ACT guidance). We have the opportunity to work with other staff members, students, parents and families to best service each student’s individual needs. The list of roles and responsibilities is far more than what I have already shared. The best part is the time spent getting to know students and helping them work toward their goals.

How many students do you counsel?

I work with students whose last name starts with K-M and have about 280-290 students on my caseload. 

Is sending transcripts to colleges overwhelming?

Sending the transcripts to colleges is not difficult, but making sure that students are staying on top of their requests for their colleges and having everything matched up correctly in Naviance can be overwhelming at times. 

Did you always want to become a counselor?

As far back as I can remember, I actually wanted to be an actress. I loved acting and performing and wanted to be on the big screen someday. When I share this, a lot of people are surprised perhaps because it does not match my personality. I also wanted to be in education. I initially thought I wanted to be a teacher, but quickly realized I was very interested in mental health and being a counselor, so being a school counselor just made the most sense. 

Which is more stressful: college applications or the beginning of the year with class scheduling?

Almost a tie, but I would have to say the scheduling process has been the most stressful for me. The process is long and regardless of how proactive you try to be, you get slammed the weeks leading into and at the start of the school year. 

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I am originally from Texas and lived there most of my life before moving here to PA. I really love Texas and my entire extended family is there, but I no longer think I can survive the Texas heat! I would probably live somewhere tropical that has the opportunity for great work/life balance. 

What is your favorite movie?

This is a tough one. I love watching movies and have seen so many that I really like that I can’t pick just one. There are movies I make sure I watch every year,  Hocus Pocus in the month of October, once maybe twice! National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Four Christmases every December. 

Do you have any hobbies?

Unfortunately, I don’t have too much time for hobbies right now. I have a 21-month-old, so he takes up all of my time when I am not at work. I love spending time with him playing, reading him books, and teaching him new things. When I do get some down time, I enjoy watching TV shows and movies or reading a good book. 

If you could go back in time and give your younger self advice, what would it be?

I would tell my younger self to prioritize your faith, family and health. These have always been so important to me, especially now that I am a parent. 

Are you close friends with the other counselors?

The other NA school counselors are great and have been a major support with my transition into the position last year and even this year. The limited in-person connections last year and the busy start to this year have limited the opportunities to build personal relationships, but this is something I am looking forward to working on in the coming years, not only with the other counselors, but the whole NA staff as well.