Like many high schools, the halls of Flagstaff High are chaotic, full of the uncertainty and elation of teenagers in the most vulnerable and powerful of times.
Katherine Pastor, one of four counselors at Flag High, is charged with the care of 489 of the school’s some 1600 students. It is a multifaceted, challenging job. Along with her capable department, she is college admissions adviser, academic adviser, and student council adviser. She gives civics lessons, she counsels, she negotiates the difficult realities of bullying and harassment, of anxiety and depression. She is a shoulder to lean on, a high-five in the hallway, the one who catches students before they slip through the cracks, the one who expands students’ options, boosting her kids into college or other post-secondary opportunities. Her list of accomplishments as a school counselor are many and her value to the education profession immense, and it is no small wonder that she was named National School Counselor of the Year in 2016.
Pastor’s tenure at Flag High began 13 years ago, when the burdens of teenagers were much the same as now, although before “the challenge of the Smartphone and Snapchat,” she says.
It was also before everything changed for Pastor personally in a sequence of surprising moments that revealed an awful truth: a tumor had been quietly growing in the back right quadrant of her brain, slowly applying pressure to cranial nerves until its presence could no longer be ignored.