Counseling department honored at fundraising gala


The Whitman High School Education Foundation honors the counseling department at their fundraiser March 16. This was the fourth annual event dedicated to bringing parents and teachers together. Photo by Mira Dwyer.

By Rebecca Hirsh

The Whitman High School Education Foundation honored the counseling department with educators and parents at its fourth annual fundraising gala March 16 at the Bethesda DoubleTree Hotel.

The foundation is an independent body that funds unmet needs at Whitman, such as training for teachers, Promethean boards and library remodeling. WHSEF started the social four years ago to close the gap between parents and teachers, as well as to raise money for the foundation, WHSEF president Alice Gallin said. Previous honorees are principal Alan Goodwin, educators of 30 or more years of experience and teachers who have a large impact on education outside of the classroom. Local realtor Marc Fleisher, whose kids went to Whitman, sponsors the event each year and covers the entry cost for all the teachers to attend.

“This event is a nice way for teachers to meet parents in a non-academic setting and just to solidify that we’re all on the same path toward finding a way for our students to be successful,” engineering teacher Rachel Stender said. “It’s a team-based approach, it’s not just your teachers, not just the students and it’s not just counseling. Altogether, we’re hoping to help our students find what’s a really good fit for them.”

The foundation chose the counseling department as honorees after their especially challenging year due to the tragedies in the community. This year is also especially notable in the department because, as of January, counselor Will Kapner now has the longest tenure of any Whitman counselor.

“We picked the counselors because they work really hard on behalf of the kids,” Gallin said. “They every touch every single student who goes to Whitman. Not only every student, but every parent. Everyone in the community.”

The night started off with appetizers and dinner accompanied by four students playing string instruments. Coed a cappella group NOTA performed a song, followed by speeches from Gallin, Goodwin and resource counselor Kari Wislar. Goodwin spoke about the counselors’ dedication to helping students through difficult times.

“Our counselors on any given year work very, very hard but this year in particular was an especially strong, powerful, struggling year for our students, and therefore for our counselors,” Goodwin said. “They spend time taking care of transcripts and recommendations but all of those things are put to the side when a child is in crisis.”

Many of the counselors cited the support from the community, administration, peers and students as reasons that they enjoy working at Whitman and continue to work despite crises.

“I feel privileged,” counselor Sylvia Costa said. “The kind of role that we have as counselors, sometimes it can feel thankless because we do so much so this event reminds me that we are appreciated. I feel really, really privileged and really lucky to feel that others in the community support us.”