Longtime counselor says high school’s success is due to teamwork
Guidance counselor Erica Maira has been a part of the Seneca High School family since almost the very beginning. She has seen students from 2004 graduate from Seneca and their siblings follow after. To her, it is an honor to work beside and be a part of the Seneca family.
For her many years spent at the high school and her integral part in helping to shape Seneca to what it is today, Maira was chosen as the 2017–2018 Educational Services Professional of the Year.
“To me, it is truly an honor to represent such an amazing staff. Seneca has a different vibe than other schools. It is quite an honor to have this from the Seneca family,” Maira said.
She credited her award to all of those who help her throughout the school, as she could not do it without them.
“It’s hard to talk about myself. Everything happens here because of everybody working together … Seneca is such a special place, with so much support; stuff couldn’t happen without them,” Maira said.
Maira has been part of the Lenape Regional High School District since 1983 as a biology teacher at Lenape High School. After teaching in Newport News, Va., for two years, Maira returned to the LRHSD in 1986 as a science teacher at Lenape and as the assistant gymnastics coach. She came to Seneca in 2004.
When asked why she decided to pursue a career in education and then in counseling, she said she loved the rewards of teaching students how to think and watching them experience that “light-bulb” moment of understanding. That shifted to the reward of being a part of students’ high school experience as a whole.
“Seeing students mature from incoming freshmen to graduating seniors is extremely rewarding. The students are our future, and the challenges are forever changing. I thoroughly enjoy helping them gain the life skills needed to meet and exceed these challenges,” Maira said.
At Seneca, Maira feels because it is a newer school she has been able to help lay some of the ground work to build upon and get more flexibility in what they’d like to do at the school to give the students a positive experience throughout their high school career. Maira was part of the group that helped to create Prom House 110 Carranza, an after-prom, alcohol- and drug-free party from midnight to 5:30 a.m. The event provides fun games and prizes to help students have a positive prom experience.
As a guidance counselor, Maira said she loves that every day is different and working beside the staff, which includes her husband, to grow.
Maira’s role at Seneca isn’t only a guidance counselor; she is also group grief facilitator and an advisor for Seneca’s Student Council. She co-advises with Matt Abate and Laura Hoy.
“(As a counselor), I just want my students to gain an overall positive experience and to take advantage of opportunities given to them. For student council, I want to nurture the inner leader (of my students) through the planning and executions of over 15 events we do throughout the school year,” Maira said.
Maira’s favorite memory at Seneca was at an event called “Walk Under the Stars,” where the whole community came together, walked around the track and raised more than $26,000 for the American Cancer Society from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next day.
“It felt like you were in the time capsule, like we were the only people on earth all together for the same purpose,” Maira said. “Our hearts grew together as a Seneca family.”
Maira’s goals are to continue to enjoy being a high school guidance counselor and, as her children are mostly grown now, devote most of her time to Seneca.
Along with Maira, the Seneca High School Teacher of the Year, Kirk Seeley, was also chosen by the staff at the high school.
“The Teacher of the Year and the Educational Service Professional of the Year are part of the governor’s educator recognition program. Teachers are nominated by school staff and chosen by a selection committee. We are very proud of both staff members and their contributions to our school. Being recognized by your peers as an outstanding educator speaks to their innovation, their commitment to student achievement and to their service to students outside the classroom,” Seneca Principal Jeff Spector said.