Lancer Spotlight: Jessica McDonald–Tuscarora Titan in the PAST, Lancer Counselor in the PRESENT

“She has the talent to guide students to discover their talents” – Kay Wilson

Jessica McDonald works at her desk at school
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Jessica McDonald, new chairperson of the Student Services department was happy to see faces after joining a Google Meet and meeting some of her new students. 

Due to the virtual environment, it’s much harder for the counselors to get to know students. Oftentimes communication is hard when you are solely talking through emails.

“I’ve been slowly reaching out to students and introducing myself, encouraging them to sign up for one-on-one meetings with me, which is the highlight of my day. Getting to meet with my students and actually see their faces rather than just emails has really helped me feel connected to them and start to get to know them better,” McDonald said. 

Senior, Ashley Nash met with McDonald over Google Meet and they discussed her senior graduation requirements. 

“She was very nice and very informative. She made sure that I was on track for all my graduation requirements,” Nash said. “And she checked how far along I was in the college application process to make sure that I was understanding everything I needed to do and that I got everything done in time for my applications.”

McDonald’s favorite part about being a school counselor is the connection she has with her students and their families. 

“It’s such a privilege that I get to work with students from ninth grade through their senior year and to be a small part of their high school journey,” said McDonald.

This is a very busy time of year for McDonald and her department, as they are responsible for writing a letter of recommendation for each of their students who apply to a four-year college. McDonald was also the PSAT Coordinator this year.

Despite McDonald’s nurturing personality, she hasn’t always been a guidance counselor. Her first job in education was as a math teacher.

“I was a math teacher for eight years at Urbana High School and I actually graduated from Urbana, so it was really fun to get to go back there as a teacher and see the school from that perspective,” said McDonald. 

Helen Golibart, Pupil Personnel Worker for FCPS, was one of McDonald’s basketball coaches when McDonald was in middle school. Golibart was also a teacher at Urbana High School when McDonald went to high school there. The pair reunited when McDonald started working as a math teacher at Urbana. At that time, Golibart was an IB Coordinator. McDonald coached many of Golibart’s students and together they were able to support them and provide them with many opportunities. 

“She is the best School Counselor I have worked with within my 30 years at FCPS. She is very knowledgeable about college, careers, and support for other more personal issues. She works well with students and families, creates effective programs, and is a strong leader,” said Golibart “She is an amazing listener. She is compassionate and kind. She is a fabulous Mother, wife, friend, and athlete. If I had a child in high school, I would want her to be their counselor.”

They later on worked together at Tuscarora High School for three years. Together they helped many students through difficult and stressful times. 

“We worked very well as a team. We were members of the team that started the English Learner program at THS. The program and team is very successful,” said Golibart.

The two have known each other for around 23 years. 

“I would say, we are not only co-workers but also good friends,” said Golibart. 

Outside of Guidance and Mathematics, McDonald’s most important role is as a mother. She spends most of her time caring for her 8-month-old son with her husband. Then it’s back to work once the little one goes to bed. McDonald was out on maternity leave last spring when schools went into Continuity of Learning. In her free time, when she’s not with family, she’s binging a new TV series. 

“In the early days of quarantine and surviving a newborn, that [watching tv] was my go to. And just getting out any time I can even if it’s just a walk around the neighborhood. I think we all need that to kind of maintain our sanity,” said McDonald.

McDonald emphasizes the need for students to take accountability in their school work.

“Students who are utilizing the student support block and those office hours with teachers and those that are asking questions, are the ones that I’m seeing being really successful,” said McDonald.  

Not just a Hawk, not just a Lancer, but McDonald was also a Titan at Tuscarora High School as a Guidance Counselor. She is still adjusting to Linganore and its traditions.

“There are students that may not have grown up in that feeder pattern and attended those schools all along, Where as at Linganore I think we have a lot more consistency as far as students kind of all being together from elementary through high school,” said McDonald “I think just that sense of school pride is very well established at Linganore, it being an older school and the traditions that are here. It also helps that the students know from the start of elementary school, they’re gonna be a Linganore Lancer.

While at Tuscarora, McDonald also worked with fellow Guidance Counselor, Kay Wilson.

Jessica McDonald takes her shot at a college basketball game.

“I had the privilege to be her colleague for several years. She truly is a person who is absolutely passionate about helping her students. The respect she feels toward each, is felt and appreciated by all,” said Wilson “Linganore students will soon know that she will help make their years in high school a great and fun experience.”

McDonald is a math teacher emerged into a guidance counselor, but what was she like in high school? When she was in high school she was very quiet and reserved. She had a good core group of friends and she still communicates with some of them today. 

“I was the type of student who was embarrassed to raise my hand in class to ask a question, so I would go and talk to the teacher after class,” said McDonald. “To some extent I would say I was painfully shy.”

Jessica McDonald dribbles the ball through the court.

Though she was shy, McDonald was very involved in basketball. She played in middle school, high school, and college. Basketball was her outlet.

“I was good at it and I worked hard. I was a very aggressive player. I would say about 90% of the time I was shy and I got good grades, and I feel like the rest of my time was taken up by basketball,” said McDonald.

Throughout her basketball career, McDonald had many coaches who impacted her and taught her how to work hard. 

“They really helped me and pushed me as far as my work ethic and being a team player. Those things have stuck with me throughout my life and up to today, with my work ethic as a counselor and my ability to work with all my students and colleagues,” McDonald said.

McDonald’s parents have always supported her and she knows that they still continue to today.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.”

“I used to be really obsessed with quotes and I had this whole book where I would write them all down,” said McDonald. 

One quote in particular has always meant a lot to McDonald. 

The quote reads: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.” 

McDonald stands by this quote and believes you should always try to think and work outside your comfort zone because if you don’t, things will never change.

“That to me has always been a good reminder that even though it might not be comfortable to us, because change isn’t, and if we are not happy with the way things are then we need to adjust something, make a change, even if it’s something small,” McDonald said “We have to do this if we want to try and have different results.”