2020 SEPAC AWARDS

Marissa Maki

High Rock School


Sixth grade can be a challenging year for many students, and especially for those with special needs. Marissa Maki, High Rock’s School Adjustment Counselor, has played a crucial role in shepherding so many children — and their families — through emotional highs and lows, bringing warmth, compassion, and insight to difficult situations.

One parent shares “My son had a really tough year at High Rock, and Marissa was the shining light through it all. Even through his most challenging behaviors, she showed him unconditional patience and understanding. She was both kind and firm, consistent yet flexible, which was exactly what he needed.”

Another parent shares: “Marissa was instrumental in supporting our son through his year at High Rock. She worked with his previous team to understand his complicated and unique social and learning profile, and was able to connect with him from the very start. Throughout the year she provided him a safe space (and plenty of mints!) to decompress and regulate when he was overwhelmed. She was particularly talented in identifying his strengths, and helped him to be able to successfully use his questionable humor and skills in a positive way both in and out of the classroom.”

As a part of the team, Marissa brings a deep understanding of each of her students, which enables her to develop effective strategies while also integrating the ideas of parents and other team members. As High Rock Special Education Coordinator Judy Murphy says: “Marissa brings a student’s voice to the table, and is thoughtful, often thinking outside the box to ensure her students feel comfortable and experience success when they are struggling to face anxiety, fears, and challenges.”

Marissa finds the humor, kindness, and wisdom within each child. Her ability to discover and appreciate her students’ strengths allows her to build trusting relationships in a short amount of time. “My child isn’t much for conversation these days,” says one parent. “It’s mostly eyerolls and shoulder-shrugs, and I often wonder what is running through her head. But in her weekly Zoom check-ins with Marissa, I hear her opening up and articulating her feelings. I can tell that she trusts Marissa, and sees her as a confidant and ally as she navigates the social challenges of school.”

This is echoed by another parent who states, “Now that my son is remote learning, I appreciate how Marissa provides multiple opportunities to connect with him. Even though my son struggles to do any school work, he is willing to meet with Marissa three times a week — this speaks volumes to the way Marissa connects with him.”

A parent of an 8th grader says “While it was two years ago when they worked together, my daughter still smiles when she hears Marissa’s name.” Marissa Maki truly makes a lasting impact on each of her students.

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