Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

June 3, 2013

A lot of rewards for school counselor

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — There were a number of longtime educators in Pauls Valley who decided this past school year would be their last, instead choosing to call it a career and head off into retirement.

One person making that move was Mary Johnson.

Johnson has for the last several years worked as a counselor for students at Pauls Valley High School.

She’s also been right there in a PV classroom as a teacher and back in her school days as a student.

With this recently ended school year being her last, Johnson couldn’t help but think about how special it’s been working with all those students over the years as they attended PVHS and prepared for life after graduation.

“It’s a big deal graduating from high school,” Johnson said. “Basically they’re turning into adults. They’re starting to make more decisions for themselves.

“It’s rewarding for me to see they really are becoming mature adults and really are thinking of their future.”

Johnson knows Pauls Valley well. She and her family moved here when she was about third grade. She later graduated from PVHS in 1965. Then it was a degree in vocational home economics from OSU in Stillwater.

Marriage and kids later combined to lead Mary’s path.

Throughout that period she started her studies toward a master’s degree at Colorado State University, and while in Tahlequah she got going with a master’s program in counseling.

At one point she earned her certification in elementary education and finished her graduate program for counseling.

Her return to Pauls Valley came about when her husband Floyd was hired here as the wrestling coach and science teacher.

Mary then spent three years teaching first and second grades at the nearby Whitebead School. For the next five years she taught home economic in PV.

Then it was a 15-year stretch as a stay-at-home mom taking care of three children. As her kids started getting older Mary decided to return to the classroom

“The kids didn’t need me at home anymore so I went back to teaching,” Mary said.

She started out teaching Social Studies and serving as the tennis coach.

Her start as a counselor came next at the local early learning center. She spent a year there before being reassigned to the high school. That came for the 1999-2000 school year.

“Most of what I do is vocational and college career counseling,” Johnson said.

“A lot of people have a misconception about what a counselor does. It’s not about psychology or me being a psychologist. I do deal with some of the personal issues of the students, but my goal is to get them to graduate and be productive citizens in society.

“I encourage them to take things further down the road,” she said, adding college or post high school vocational programs are usually the main focus.

“There are so many opportunities out there for them. Opening their eyes and making them aware of those opportunities — that’s what I do.”

She adds high school graduates can continue their studies in a vocational or career tech programs for free until they’re 21 years old.

“The more education they have the better. I try to prepare them to make decisions for their future. The better informed they are the better choices they can make.”

With retirement Mary wants to spend more time with her three grandchildren, all under 2 years old with one living in PV. Also traveling, maybe even a trip to China, might be in her future.