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Problems take 'Doc' Holliday

January 03, 2005|by SCOTT BUTKI

Editor's note: This is the fourth in a monthly series highlighting excellent educators in Washington County high schools. Next month: North Hagerstown High School.




scottb@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK - A survey David "Doc" Holliday once took to help him choose a career path suggested three options: bartender, disc jockey or guidance counselor.

"I don't drink, and I'm not comfortable being heard every second on the radio," said Holliday, 47, who has worked as a guidance counselor for 24 years, first in Morgan County, W.Va., then in Washington County Public Schools.

During that time, he has worked with students of every grade, said Holliday, of Paw Paw, W.Va.

"I got the kids crying because they have to come to school and crying because they have to leave school when they had to graduate. But it is really special if you can know them for the whole span and have a relationship," Holliday said.

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He currently works at Hancock Middle-Senior High School, mostly with middle school students. As part of his work, he teaches two classes for students to help them reach their potential, he said.

"He is a big advocate for kids," said Warren Barrett, the school's principal.

"One of the biggest things I have noticed is that Mr. Holliday has a great rapport with kids," Barrett said. "He can talk with kids on any subject. Kids feel comfortable sharing with him their needs and concerns."

Holliday tells students personal anecdotes about events in his life and his frankness helps him connect with students.

"They must believe you are genuine, you are real. You are doing it not just because it is a job but because you care about what you are doing," he said.

Holliday said his favorite part of the job is finding fun during the day. It is important to have a good sense of humor, he said.

"I try to be a positive and friendly role model," he said.

Holliday likes being a guidance counselor in middle school for the same reason many guidance counselors avoid that age group.

"Everything is a crisis," he said.

He has asked students coming to see him to indicate whether their issue is an emergency, and whether the student is seeing him because she is having problems in a class or because of an upset friend, she will say it is, he said.

But the way he looks at it, the times when students go to counselors for help - even if they are not emergencies - are exactly when they are needed the most.

A guidance counselor who dismisses as trivial something the student considers an emergency is missing an opportunity, he said.

By taking their problems seriously, Holliday lets his students know he wants to help them.

The experience increases the chance that students will go to him and trust him when a real emergency occurs, Holliday said.

The most difficult part of his job is the stress, he said.

"I can get so involved with the student and the family that I can't just go home and forget about it. You try not to take it home with you, but you do," he said.

Holliday likes the small-town atmosphere of Hancock, which he described as "kind of Mayberry."

It reminds him of where he grew up, Yellow Spring, W.Va., he said.

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