Counselor Beth Bunde Retiring After 34 Years In Education

Beth Bunde is retiring from a career as a counselor and teacher after 34 years. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Beth Bunde can easily explain why she became a high school counselor.

Opening up a file folder in her Anthony Wayne High School office, Bunde pulled out a stack of cards and letters from former students, thanking her for helping them through challenging times.

“Some days when I’m having a bad day, I read these messages and remember that this is my ‘why,’” she said, referring to principal Dr. Kevin Pfefferle’s advice to “Know what’s your why.”

As she prepares to retire after 34 years in education – including 27 as a counselor – Bunde knows she’s made a difference, but she admits she didn’t start out her career wanting to work with high school students.

“My goal was to be a kindergarten teacher,” said Bunde, an Ottawa-Glandorf and University of Toledo graduate. 

While teaching third, fourth and sixth grades during her time in Liberty Center Schools, Bunde decided to earn her master’s degree in school counseling before she and her husband, Kent, started a family.

“I wanted to use my master’s degree to help me more in the classroom,” said Bunde, who ended up working as an elementary counselor for two years in Liberty Center.

Then in July 1997, when she was eight months pregnant with her first child, Bunde got a call from now-retired AW counselor Karen Bixler, urging her to apply for an opening.

“I told her, ‘I’m eight months pregnant, but thanks anyway,’” she laughed. Bixler, however, was persistent, encouraging her friend to think about 25 years in the future, not her current situation. 

“The baby was due on August 9 and the first day of school was August 12. I was past my due date, so I came in the first day. The second day I worked two hours and drove myself to the hospital. And here I am, 27 years later,” she said.

Bunde has seen plenty of changes during that time. Early on, she hand-calculated GPAs. Now that’s all handled through PowerSchool. She’s also seen a shift from meeting students face to face to more email interactions when students want to change schedules. 

What was once post-secondary options (PSO), in which just a handful of students took college courses while in high school, is now College Credit Plus (CCP), used by nearly 500 students each year.  

The number of students experiencing mental health crises has also grown in the past few decades.

“The amount of kids with anxiety and depression has blown up,” she said

While COVID-19 and isolation contributed to that increase, she believes it’s also due to a reliance on social media rather than face-to-face contact.

“Instead of getting together or talking on the phone, they’re posting and using Snapchat. Even though they’re more connected, they’re more alone,” she said. “And social media only shows our high points, so they think that everyone else’s life is perfect. “

As a counselor, Bunde can refer students to seek help from the district’s social worker or outside resources.

Helping students chart a path through high school – academically, vocationally and socially – takes organization, connections and an ability to listen and connect with students. 

“I may have my day planned and then a student will pop in suddenly and need something,” she said. “That’s the part of the job I love the most. I like change.”

The position includes seeing students about schedules, helping them with college applications and planning for life after graduation, whether it’s enlistment, employment or education. Each year, she surveys her students, starting as freshmen, in order to advise on classes to take to meet their long-term goals.

Even years after graduation, she’ll hear from her students on social media or out in the community and welcomes news of the paths they have taken. 

Graduation is on Saturday, May 18, and this will be the last time Bunde will see her students cross the stage, and it is a moment she will appreciate as she does each year. 

As she moves on in the next phase of her own life, Bunde is preparing by reading books and sharing insights with friends, and already has a list of hobbies, vacations and books she wants to tackle.

“This is the next phase of my life and I want to live it to the fullest,” she said.

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