When Eleanor Kotowski applied to college, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to open her own business or become a therapist. She had an interest in education and even toyed with the idea of being an English teacher, but eventually settled on getting a bachelor’s degree in finance from Virginia Tech.
Kotowski decided to hold off on grad school and worked in Washington, D.C., as a financial litigation consultant for three years. Outside of work, she volunteered as a tutor through a non-profit organization and realized she loved working with students. So she went back to school and got a master’s degree in counselor education from the University of Virginia.
“I especially enjoyed the mentoring piece of it and just being an ear to listen. I realized that working in a school would be fun and opted for school counseling,” she said.
Kotowski, who was recently named Thomas Dale’s Teacher of the Year, has been a school counselor for eight years, including four at Matoaca High School and the last four at Thomas Dale High School.
She has almost 300 students on her caseload, including seniors who are members of the Visual and Performing Arts Specialty Center.
Kotowski works to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of her students by working with seniors throughout the entire college application process and helping them have a set plan for after graduation. She works with students who may be struggling academically and those whose learning may be affected by personal situations.
With her switch to education, Kotowski decided she could still fulfill the part of her that was interested in therapy by becoming a school counselor.
“It married my desire to work in education with my desire to counsel and help students with problems both in and out of school,” she said.
Kotowski enjoys interacting with students from different backgrounds and seeing them grow and mature, and ultimately helping them create their personal plans for after graduation. She said she likes working with families and helping to connect them with resources, as needed.
She credited her fellow counselors for inspiring and motivating her to give her best at school.
“I see how many so many of our teachers and administrators give of themselves on a daily basis to ensure that school is an awesome and safe place for our students,” she said. “Their dedication, their smiles and their welcoming attitudes always inspire me and remind me to bring my ‘A-game’ for each student.”
Kotowski is looking forward to more years of counseling students and their families.
“I’d like to continue working with students and families to simplify the high school experience and make it as stress [free] as possible,” she said. “I plan to continue helping students reach their potential so they can go on to their chosen college or career after graduation.”