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Hundreds of students have passed through Dan Guthrie’s office over the last 29 years. They’ve visited the Mount Vernon High School guidance counselor for numerous reasons, positive and painful. As the faces came and went, Guthrie said he always hoped that the work he did had a positive impact on Mount Vernon students.
“I think that’s what anyone in a helping profession hopes for,” he said. “You hope you are making a difference and helping people when they need it most.”
At the end of the school year, Guthrie, 65, is set to retire from the high school after nearly three decades of service. It is a bittersweet occasion for the guidance counselor, who has spent his professional career assisting others during major life transitions.
Guthrie began his career as a teacher in his hometown of Indianapolis before moving to Colorado. He went on to earn his master’s degree in counseling, and worked as a teacher and guidance counselor in Kansas for three years.
Finally, Guthrie, his wife, Dayna, and their three small children came to settle in Mount Vernon. Guthrie said he has never looked back.
“I really liked the school district, and I’ve come to work with many wonderful people here,” he said. “This became our new home.”
High school guidance counselors wear many hats, and Guthrie is no exception. In addition to his regular job duties, he prepares the school’s master schedule, keeps track of local scholarships and serves as the high school’s SAT coordinator.
But Guthrie said helping kids prepare for their future has always been the most rewarding – and challenging – part of his job.
“There’s a lot to this job, and in it, you see the good, bad and the ugly,” he said. “Through it all, you try to make good professional judgments and do the best you can.”
The counselor said he is pleased to see many former Wildcats succeeding in their daily lives. One alumni, Brian Gmutza, actually returned to Mount Vernon after college and worked beside Guthrie in the guidance counselor office.
“I see many former students in the community and on Facebook, and it’s nice to know that many of them are doing well,” he said.
Although he is of official retirement age, Guthrie said he still feels like he has much to contribute. He isn’t sure if he will take on another job down the road, or focus on some of his hobbies like travel and writing instead.
When asked why he chose to retire, Guthrie was reminded of an old Twilight Zone episode called “The Changing of the Guard.” In the episode, an aging professor reflects on his long tenure at his school as he prepares to retire. He feels as though he can teach forever, but in the end, he realizes that the positive impact he made on his students gives him enough satisfaction to move on to the next chapter of his life.
It is a sentiment Guthrie said he relates to.