Bruce Fulkerson became a school counselor after working in the juvenile court system.
“I’ve always been in a position of trying to help kids,” he said.
At the end of the school year, he’ll retire after 25 years.
Fulkerson grew up in Western Montana. He came to Spokane and worked first in the dependence division, then in the high-risk division of Spokane County Juvenile Court. When his department suffered some layoffs, he kept his job, but decided to look at other options.
He earned a master’s degree at then-Whitworth College in 1989, applied to East Valley School District and has been there since.
He was at Trentwood Elementary for 14 years where, among other things, he taught a parenting class for his students’ parents. He moved to East Valley Middle School and was there until last year, when the district moved to a K-8 system. He spent the past year at East Valley High School.
After working at each level of schooling, he said there was something from each level he enjoyed. In elementary school, he liked the parental involvement. Once he got to middle school, he could sit down and have a conversation with students without having to use techniques to draw them out. At high school, there is much more work to do.
The counselors help with student scheduling and making sure each senior has what they need to graduate. They help with college applications, make sure Running Start students are getting the credits they need, set up college visits, help with special education meetings and more.
But if a student comes to them in crisis, “all the other stuff stops,” he said.
This last year has been nice, since he knew half of the students before he even walked through the front door.
It’s the kids he gets emotional about when he thinks about his career.
A few years ago, he received an email from a student thanking him for helping her. She was getting ready to graduate from high school and didn’t think she would have if he hadn’t helped.
“It was a very touching note that I got,” he said.
He remembers that her family was going through a difficult transition, but “I just did what a counselor will do.”
Now that he’s retiring, he’s looking forward to traveling with his wife of 34 years, Margie. He hopes they’ll take a cruise to Alaska or a riverboat cruise through Europe.
“I’m going to learn how to enjoy unstructured time,” he said.
He has some advice to anyone wishing to be a school counselor.
“Tighten your belt and hang on.”