Hamburg Team Welcomes New Counselor, Welcomes Back Teacher’s Aide

Our Hamburg campus recently had two staffers join its ranks, although one of them is a familiar face!

Kylee McLaughlin (left, above) joined the team as a school counselor, fulfilling a career goal that was years in the making – even if she didn’t know it at first.

Kylee was always close with her own high school counselor in her hometown of Lancaster, N.Y.  Kylee went on to major in Communication Disorders at SUNY Fredonia, but while there she began reflecting on the difference her school counselor made on her – so she added a minor in School Counseling.

After graduating, she went to Canisius University, where she added a master’s degree in School Counseling.

An internship at Mount St. Mary’s Academy helped solidify her career choice, as did some substitute teaching with Lancaster’s William Street School and two teacher’s aide experiences with Erie-1 BOCES. Yet, it was an internship with The Stanley G. Falk School – which serves students with special learning, social and emotional needs – that resonated strongest with her.

“I really liked that population of kids,” Kylee says. “I discovered that I had the chance to really get to know them and have an impact, because the class sizes were smaller and more manageable.”

Thus, when she saw Randolph Academy’s job opening, she jumped at it.

“I love that you can make a difference in each kid’s life,” she explains. “Even if you make a small change, it can impact them in a big way, either during the day or after school.”

That’s how Sierra Martin feels, too – and why she returned after a year away.

Sierra worked here as a teacher’s aide in 2021-22 as she completed her associate’s degree in Adolescent Education from Jamestown Community College. She, too, was amazed at the impact she could have on students’ lives.

“I fell in love with the idea of working at an alternative school, and in special education,” she attests.

The Niagara Falls native and Pembrooke (N.Y.) High School graduate enjoyed it so much, she performed her student teaching obligations here as well during her lunch hour.

“I love it here because I get to have one-on-one time with students and develop a rapport with them,” she says. “I enjoy being someone who they can vent to, rely on, and go to for advice.”

However, Sierra now calls Brocton, N.Y., home, and her 90-minute roundtrip commute began weighing on her. She left last year in hopes of finding a job closer to home as she worked on her bachelor’s degree in Adolescent Education – Biology from SUNY Fredonia.

There was just one problem: she missed it. So, after a one-year hiatus which included student teaching experiences at Brocton Central and Fredonia Central schools, she is thrilled to be back.

As younger team members, both Kylee and Sierra benefit from having mentors within their teams. For Kylee, it’s fellow counselors Thomas Placic, Alyssa Sturmer, and Tina Morgan.

“It’s so nice to have them here to learn from,” Kylee says. “They’ve helped me a lot. It’s reassuring to be able to talk to them and get my questions answered.”

For Sierra, science teachers James Vitale and Emily Cronin are her inspiration, as is Restorative Justice Coordinator Laura Heeter.

“I love seeing them in action!” she attests. “I know I can always ask them about anything.”

Sierra enjoys assisting our science teachers on field trips, and she especially likes to help students with science labs.

“That’s my all-time favorite thing!” she exclaims. “They sometimes let me take the lead on those, which I’m very thankful for.”

Both staffers have seen enough of traditional schools – from both sides of the desk – to understand the value that Randolph Academy’s environment and culture provides to students and their families.

“Our population is so much more manageable,” Kylee explains. “The larger schools don’t have that luxury because of the large numbers of students they serve.”

“The difference in class size is a huge advantage,” Sierra agrees. “A traditional school is just too large, in my opinion. I like getting to know the children individually, as opposed to group conversations which are more of the norm at a traditional school.”

Sierra gets the added joy of seeing the growth in many of the students with whom she worked during her first year here. In particular, she thinks back to the younger high school students she had in 2021, several of whom had behavioral issues and caused various disruptions. “Now to see them as seniors, and to see how they’ve matured and managed those emotions – it’s night and day,” Sierra beams. “Coming back to Randolph Academy was the right decision for me. I missed it so, so much!”