Perhaps the best way for school counselors to know if their work makes a difference, is to listen to the words of students and colleagues. This conversation between Tif Bernard and Amy Seigle about counselor Hed King reflects the very reason for recognizing school counselors during National School Counseling Week.
This Week's Storytellers
This week, Tif Bernard and Amy Seigle remember Hedy King, a school counselor who was very special to them both.
Hedy King worked in the school counseling office at Springs Valley Junior-Senior High School in French Lick, Indiana from 1994 to 2011, when she retired. In that time, she helped countless students in countless ways. A graduate of Indiana State University’s School Counseling (M.Ed) program, Hedy often spent her days providing a safe place to talk and a caring ear to listen, food for students who were hungry, and soap or laundry detergent for families who needed it.
In 2018, Hedy lost her fight with cancer. Amy and Hedy’s daughter Courtney still ask each other, “What would Hedy do?” The answer is almost always either, “Love more,” or, “Give more.”
Tif Bernard lives in the Pennsylvania hills with a cat who sounds like Fran Drescher and lots of empty notebooks. She is fond of chai lattes with oatmilk and wants to be Kristy Bowen when she grows up.
Amy Seigle works at Inspire Success. She spends a portion of every week fangirling over school counselors and what they do for kids.
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Hi, everyone and welcome to the Encouraging Words for School Counselors podcast. I’m Matt Fleck with Inspire Success. Happy National School Counseling Week! I’ve always thought this is the perfect time of the year for School Counseling Week because it’s about the time in the school year when you’re REALLY getting exhausted and need a little boost.
And a little boost is exactly what we have for you today. Tif Bernard and Amy Drake Seigle are not school counselors but they both have touching memories of a school counselor named Hedy King from Springs Valley Junior-Senior High School.
Hedy was Tiffany’s school counselor at a time when Tif – who has cerebral palsy – was living in a physically and emotionally abusive home. Now, years later, Tif and Amy sat down to reminisce about the impact this one school counselor had on both of their lives.
Do you want to start Amy?
Well, I mean, I can, I can tell you that Hedy and I are distant, we’re distantly related and it ended up that we were also working together. And so I was at, over at Springs Valley, usually several days a week for different things. And the first time I met Tiffany and I’m not even sure she remembers this…
I don’t, I don’t.
You were probably an eighth grader. Yeah. And I can remember you came down the hall and Hedy lit up because she was happy to see you. You were using your crutches and you were, I don’t know that you were having the best day, but when Hedy saw you she lit up because she was very happy to see you. And she was like, Tiffany, how’s your day. It’s fine. Then you just kept going on down the hall. That would have been the first time I think I met you.
I don’t remember meeting you. If Hedy recommended you and then you were probably good folks.
Would that have been, I’m guessing, around the time that Hedy became your counselor.
Yeah. I, I don’t remember. I was 14 or 15 the first time I realized I could actually talk to somebody in the counseling center. That’s what it was for. I remember one day I was passing it and I just went, “Oh.” And I went in.
Do you remember the first time you sat down with Hedy?
Yeah. Uh, I was scared and shaking and she actually took off — she had a shawl on the back of her chair — and she took it off and put it on my lap because I was cold and she sat and talked to me and it was, I was still scared, but it was better.
She was good at making her office like a little sanctuary.
I just loved going in there because it felt so calming.
Yeah. It was one of her goals. Every year she’d add a little decoration or a little, you know, she wanted pillows and blankets, a blanket…
She had a rug that I loved.
Yeah. And she wanted it to feel not like you were at school, but more like you were visiting at home.
Right. She would always tell me you’re stronger than you think you are. And there’s another thing that she would always say is just leave your tears in the rug. Just go ahead and cry. You don’t have to not cry, but just leave your tears in the rug. And then it’ll be okay. And you know, she would pat my back and hug me. And just, just that little bit of physical comfort from the background that I was from was… it was a gift. Just leave your tears in the rug is the thing that I remember the most.
She gave me my, my nickname, the one-F Tif. I never really realized I could spell it that way until one day she wrote me a hall pass that said, “Tif to class,” and the Tif had one F and I was like, well, usually my name is spelled with two F’s. And she said, well, do you like it that way? And I stopped. And I thought, and I said, no, I think I like your way better. And so that’s how I ended up being a one-F Tif. Just the tiny little thing of helping me claim my own name as part of my own identity. Well, whichever way you like it is the way we’ll do it. You know, I, I think I like your way. And I’ve spelled Tif with one F ever since.
Hedy’s legacy, as for many school counselors, goes beyond helping her students. For Tif, Hedy was not only her counselor but also an example of how adults could and should treat others, including Tif’s own brother.
Oh, yeah. She made all the difference in helping raise my little brother. I did not know before Hedy that there was a different way to parent. And since I am 36 and my brother is six, we kind of have, we have a sibling relationship, but also kind of a parent relationship because I’m one of the adults in his life. And I probably could have figured out on my own how to be nicer to kids, because I knew that I didn’t like the way that I had been treated. But just having Hedy’s example of this is what it feels like when an adult you look up to treats you like a human being. Sometimes I have to remind myself, when I get angry, to do that for my brother. I still respect you. You’re still a human being. And I would not have, I would not have known that down in, in, inside myself the way I know now, if it weren’t for Hedy.
I’m curious if you have advice for school counselors, like if, if you could think of like one “Hedy thing” that, that Hedy did that you would say, “Oh, I wish, I hope, all school counselors are like this.”
She always had time. There was never a sense of, and I know that she had other things to do, but there was never a sense of, “Oh my God, I’m in a hurry today. I don’t possibly have time for you.” She just felt welcoming. Like, it felt like when you walked in the room, you were what was in front of her. You were what was on the plate and she would deal with everything else later. What you said to her was important. And that was, that was pretty big. I don’t know how she did it. To be honest with you. Like, how do you have that much? How do you have that much energy in you? Like, I would be exhausted all the time.
I will say, she was very good at vacations! She would find someplace, beautiful, relaxing, and she would have at least three good books with her.
A couple of years before she died, I went back on a visit. And one of the places I wanted to go, was I wanted to go and see Hedy. So I got my friend to drive me to see Hedy. And I remember as we were leaving, you know, she gave me a kiss. She hugged me goodbye. She told me she loved me. And then as we were leaving, she just laid her hand on my shoulder for a minute. And that was just the last time she ever touched me. And it was… I’m sorry.
It’s okay. Just leave materials in the carpet, babe. You know what to do.
How about my shirt?
Okay! That works, too!
Thank you, Tif and Amy, for sharing your story. And cheers to every school counselor and student services professional – this week especially. Remember this story whenever you begin to doubt whether your work makes a difference.
Before we go: if you enjoyed this story – won’t you consider sharing one of yours? – to uplift other school counselors. It’s super simple to do. Just go to our online soundbooth — right now if you can — at inspiresuccess.org/soundbooth. And just start talking.
Happy National School Counseling Week, everyone! Please celebrate. And we’ll see you next next week.