One day, as Jo Ann Gelormine taught an English class, she noticed a student sitting in her classroom with his head lying on his desk after being out of school for two weeks.
After class, she pulled the student aside to ask what was wrong. The student told her that his father killed himself. Then, during his father’s funeral, his older brother refused to go, stayed home, and killed himself.
“That was really a turning point for me,” Gelormine said. “Because I thought there are all these kids out there that have all these major problems.
“After that I thought ‘How important is it to teach them to put a period at the end of a sentence?’ Yeah that is important, but you have to get rid of the other stuff, because he wasn’t in a place where he could learn. His mind was dealing with what was going on with his family.”
Gelormine, who is now the Director of Student Services for the Marana Unified School District, will being recognized by the Arizona School Counselors Association next month as the Arizona Administrator of the Year.
She came to the district in 1980 after spending about six months at another local school district. She spent her first 11 years teaching English.
In 1991, the district created a position for an elementary school guidance counselor. When she heard about it, she started taking classes to get certified to be a guidance counselor.
While working within the district at its elementary schools, Gelormine was recognized by the Arizona School Counselors Association in 1998 as Arizona’s Elementary Counselor of the Year.
Throughout her years as an elementary school guidance counselor, Kim Holaway, who was the director of student services at the time, mentored her.
In 2003, Holaway advocated for her to move into the position. After a little hesitation, Gelormine took the job.
“She asked me to apply for the job,” Gelormine said. “And I was really not wanting to because I never saw myself as an administrator.”
The position was open for a week to the people working within the district. On the last day, with about 15 minutes left in the day, Holaway called her and asked one more time if she would consider the position. With only minutes to spare, Gelormine accepted it.
On March 30, in Mesa at the Arizona School Counselors Association Annual State Conference, Gelormine will be recognized for her accomplishments, but she is quick to give the credit to her staff.
“Of course you’re honored,” she said. “I mean it is such an incredible honor to be [nominated] by people who work so hard. I really feel they work hard and they make me look good.
“You have all these people that you work with that you watch and learn from them. You kind of feel like you don’t deserve it because everyone else works really hard too.”
Gelormine has helped the district secure the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grant for the sixth consecutive year from the Arizona Department of Education. This past year, the $60,000 grant was put toward helping homeless students and families within the district.
She also got the district a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant is being put to use by placing a counselor in each school, hiring two social workers, and one psychologist for the district.