After 33 years in education, Ann Schuler, school counselor at Marrington Elementary School in the Berkeley County School District, has announced that she will be retiring.
Schuler first began working as a school counselor at Men Riv Elementary before transitioning to Marrington Elementary School, where she has stayed for 32 years. Now, after a lifelong career within BCSD, Schuler will be finishing up her final year in the coming months.
It has been more than a year since teachers first began finding themselves either teaching in the classrooms, potentially at risk, or attempting to teach students through a virtual learning platform. For Schuler, whose 91-year old mother recently relocated to Charleston to be closer to family, avoiding COVID-19 is even more critical and ultimately led to the decision to remain as socially distanced as possible in order to protect her family.
“For me, it's not the way I wanted to go out, but as weird as it may sound, I know it's the way it was supposed to be,” Schuler said. “I’m at total peace and total joy about it, because my family needs me. Nobody says at the end of the day, I wish I would have worked longer, they say I wish I would have spent more time with my family.”
The newly hired school counselor for the following school year, Maddie Elmore, is what Schuler describes as ‘if you rolled up sparkles, glitter and care bears all in one,’ something that Schuler says has put her at ease knowing that Elmore will continue to pour light and love into the school.
Schuler says her last year at the school amidst continued COVID-19 has not been easy. After decades of using her presence in the school as a way to brighten students' days, finding ways to continue doing so through limited visits and virtual platforms has brought its struggles.
“My whole thing has been love and hugging. I see people standing in the front of the school and I hate when people just stand there and that no one greets them because I know they feel so anxious and I would be the person that comes up and hugs them and says oh my goodness I'm so happy you are here. But no one was even allowed in the schools and so for a person like me whose whole thing is love and light and hugs, it's been really hard,” Schuler said.
Before COVID hit, Schuler would have typically been in the classrooms with children every week. Using her self-developed program called ‘Songs in the Key of Character,’ Schuler utilized songs, puppets and other learning strategies as a way of providing children with the tools they need to be successful.
“All of my things use puppets and songs and strategies to teach children how to be successful and happy. That's my whole thing, I always say, I write songs and programs that enable children to be happy and successful,” Schuler said.
Schuler says that in the last ten minutes of each class she taught, before she began reaching students virtually by live streaming into their classrooms, she would lead classrooms of students throughout the halls and they would march while singing her songs.
“All day, all throughout the school, there would be lines of kids singing and clapping their hands and now that's completely stopped,” Schuler said.
Monica Harvin, School Counseling Coordinator, met Schuler last year when she first began her role as the School Counseling Coordinator for BCSD. Although the two have not worked together extensively, Harvin says she has seen her in action with her students.
“Ann’s positivity and zest for life is infectious and everyone who comes in contact with her cannot deny that they are forever changed for the better by her positive attitude and messages which she conveys,” Harvin said.
Although her time with BCSD is coming to an end, Schuler’s desire to encourage and uplift those around her is something that she plans to continue.
“For me, every day, every moment of my job and of my life is a chance to spread love and spread light,” Schuler said. “I just think no matter where you are, no matter if you are at home or at school, if you go in everyday and view every conversation that you have as your moment to make things better, to encourage, then it makes everything better for you and for them. It makes the quality of the conversation and the quality of the moment so much better for everyone.”
Now, nearing the end of her career, Schuler looks at the opportunities she's had through her position at the school as a gift and considers herself to be the ‘happiest counselor in the universe.’
“When I was young, I always wanted a meaningful job. I didn't want just a job. And by having this, by God putting me in this position, I got to use all of my gifts. And I always say I'm the happiest counselor in the universe. And there was never a day or a moment that that was not true,” Schuler said.