Sheri Lattimer, a guidance counselor at Eastern Regional for the past 16 years, originally started her career in the education field as an English teacher.
Having taught for a combined five years at both Maple Shade High School and Vineland High School, Lattimer says at the end of each school year that students would frequently have a similar message for her after a year of stress, anxiety and hard work.
“I always buy yearbooks and let the kids sign them,” said Lattimer. “And I noticed that, as a classroom teacher, I would hear them say ‘thanks for listening,’ and as I read their comments it wasn’t ‘thanks for English class or learning anything’, but more like ‘thank you for listening and always being there,’ and I think that was the hint that maybe I should shift gears and go into working with kids in this capacity.”
Already having a bachelors of arts degree in secondary education and English from Rutgers College, Lattimer went back to get her master’s degree in student personal services. She had previously worked in the guidance department briefly while substitute teaching at Maple Shade, however she later started full-time as a guidance counselor while at Vineland before moving over to Eastern Regional.
Now, after mentoring generations of local students, Lattimer has been awarded the Camden County Counselor of the Year Award from the Camden County School Counselors Association for her role in helping guide and provide support of thousands of students.
Lattimer says she’s enjoyed being able to help students through what can be the most stressful and challenging years of their lives. From schoolwork and grades to stressful life events and more, she says her goal is to help students succeed in their own way and likes being able to make that personal connection.
“You’re putting out fires for kids, you’re helping them make good choices,” said Lattimer. “I never tell kids what to do, I try to give them their choices so that they can learn how to make the right choice for themselves.”
Another positive of her job, as opposed to being the teacher she once was, is that she enjoys being able to be with the same students throughout their high school career as opposed to a few classes over four years.
“I liked the idea of being with them for all four years,” said Lattimer. “I like the idea of starting with them as freshmen and seeing where they end up in their future paths, and I’ve loved it ever since.”
Her role in a student’s life can cover a wide range of situations, whether it is seeking assistance for problems in or out of school. Ultimately, Lattimer is thankful that she’s able to be a go-to person for students in need of help for a variety of reasons.
“We do a little bit of everything – academic stuff and classes and preparing for college and getting good grades as underclassmen… but also the personal stuff, like anxiety, friend problems, any type of crisis,” said Lattimer. “We try to be there for them through whatever they need. Some need us more than others, but we always say no matter what, we’re here for them.”
While Lattimer says she’s thankful for the award and recognition, she says what is often more rewarding is developing a meaningful relationship with students that lasts past their high school career. Seeing previous students become successful, whether it be in college, a career, or life in general, means to Lattimer that she’s done something right.
“If you’re lucky, they’ll come back and visit you,” said Lattimer. “It’s nice to see them grow and achieve through Eastern, but also out in their lives as well.”