Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hero Angie

The list of family members, friends, loved ones, acquaintances and strangers who have been integral to the ongoing journey of this Damm family is long.

One of the big names on the list: Angie Williams.

Angie is the guidance counselor at Bledsoe Elementary. Her first year at Bledsoe was also Cooper's first year at Bledsoe. Of course, when he was in kindergarten we had no idea how essential a guidance counselor would be in our lives.

Cooper was in the middle of first grade when Steve was diagnosed with brain cancer. 

The Bledsoe family stepped up right away to offer support, help, services and love. Cooper's teacher, Julia, took care of him for seven hours each day. The front office was super flexible in receiving dismissal changes and dealing with other changes. And Angie started to build a relationship with 6-year-old Coop.

She would invite him to lunch in her office. They would play games. Sometimes he would bring a friend. 

Angie was never heavy-handed, but she was always available -- not just for Cooper but for me. I could always call her, e-mail or stop by her office to ask for advice or just talk through an issue. If she didn't know the answer, she would say so but always offer to find out. And she would always follow up.

A year and a half later, Steve died on Labor Day morning. Angie and I communicated that day about plans for Tuesday. Cooper was insistent on going to school. In fact, he had missed no days related to Steve's illness.

When we arrived that Tuesday morning, Sept. 8, a counseling team was assembled in the school conference room. A plan was in place for discussing Steve's death with Cooper's classroom. 

I will never forget sitting in Brae Williams' third-grade room, with Cooper's friends gathered on the carpet around Angie. She told the class that she had some sad news to share. Her voice broke, and she cried a little as she explained that Cooper's dad had died.

Her explanation was kind, gentle, age-appropriate and thoughtful of Cooper's feelings.

For the rest of the year, Angie would spend one, two or even three mornings a week meeting with Cooper before school. He completely trusted her. He knew that if he felt a wave of sadness, he could visit with Angie. 

Angie also offered resources to me. Once again, she was never heavy-handed. I, too, completely trusted her.

Katie started school a year later. Because Angie had already invested so much in our family, she already knew Katie, too. 

Katie is a much more obviously emotional child than Cooper. Her feelings bubble up quickly, and they're often intense. Angie has been unflappable in guiding Katie the past three years.

After seven years of excellent service to Bledsoe and all its families, Angie is leaving for a wonderful opportunity within the district. When we talked about her new job yesterday, I told her that I selfishly needed her to stay just three more years -- until Katie has completed fifth grade. I'm certain there are other families who feel the same way. 

Last year I asked for Cooper's advice for a child who had lost his father. His first response: "Well, he needs Mrs. Williams."

We are forever thankful for her service, compassion, sense of humor, plus her ability to juggle more tasks than she ever reveals. We are super proud of her and excited about her new job. She'll no longer be our guidance counselor, but she'll always be one of our heroes.

Cooper & Angie, last day of fifth grade, June 1, 2012

No comments: