by Johannes Brann
While Chris Holcomb remains Superintendent of the Northeast Vernon County R-1 School District, new people occupy the offices of the principal and counselor. Dr. John Lawrence serves in the former position while Ms. Karen L. Gordon is occupying the latter.
“I’m a product of Nevada”, began Gordon; “I was born there and graduated from the Nevada R-5 High School.”
With an older brother and sister along with a younger brother, Gordon’s journey has seen her live in places spreading from North Carolina to Hawaii.
“While I’ve been in teaching for a number of years, I didn’t go straight into college and then the classroom; I worked and travelled a bit first,” said Gordon. She believes that helps her relate to a variety of students as they consider life beyond high school.
Earning her undergraduate degree in education from the University of Missouri Kansas City, she was certified in elementary education.
Said Gordon, “But even when I got into teaching, my life hasn’t been a straight line.”
She has served in several different positions at the elementary level but has worked in middle and high schools as well.
“Over the years administrators would say, ‘We have a need for this; would you take it on?’ and I’d say ‘yes’ and often take additional courses and then get certified in that area as well,” explained Gordon.
Those additional certifications include grades K-12 gifted, 5-9 science as well in technology and as a counselor.
And if that has not been sufficient variety, she joined the staff of Healthy Nevada for a year.
“I worked with the Bronaugh R-VII and the Sheldon R-VIII districts to be what is termed “trauma informed” schools,” explained Gordon. “When serious trauma comes into the life of a student, there are things to watch out for and positive things to say and do which help students process what’s happened so it’s less likely to get in the way of classes or relationships.”
For Gordon personally, trauma included the loss of her husband after being happily married for 20 years.
“I am so grateful for our years together and our amazing son who graduated Mizzou last May, and will be the new head of Joplin’s show choir; he’s a great pianist and loves music,” added Gordon.
While last year she served some 375 students as an elementary school counselor, this year she will be working with about 100 students in grades 7-12.
“I think my life experiences have prepared me to be an effective counselor,” commented Gordon. “I know what serious loss is like, what it is to graduate and not know what you want to do and I understand getting bored with the same thing and trying something new.”
Hearing herself list her different jobs and places of residence made her laugh.
“The funny thing is, I like to juggle a lot of things in life but even though I’ve tried to, I never learned to juggle but my husband was amazing at it”, said Gordon.
Then turning more serious, she reviewed several elements she finds important in counseling.
“I want kids to feel that when they walk into my office, they’ve entered a safe, secure, judgment free zone,” Gordon began. “I’ll always listen but they may not always like what I tell them.”
She added how there are still consequences, sometimes serious ones for what we say and do. She spoke of situations in which she is a “mandatory reporter” and must “hotline” what was said and done.
And when it comes to speaking with parents?
“I want parents to understand that when I call, I’m not after them,” explained Gordon. “What I’m after is how we can work together because a lot of times, what we address at school helps at home and vice-versa.”
As to hobbies, Gordon said, “I have a pool and am a sun worshiper. And I love to travel, whether it’s to favorite places in Florida or to visit family all over.”
As she concluded, she spoke of how she loved working with students and parents and then added, “I don’t have all the answers but I know where to look!”