Susan Dolski thought she wanted to work in marketing, but all that changed when she took a psychology class.
“It was that psychology class that really clicked with me,” she said. “I went running with that.”
So, instead of a seeking a degree in marketing, she sought and received one in social work.
Dolski worked in social work for a time and ironically worked in marketing before deciding to go to graduate school for counseling.
This school year, she is a new guidance counselor in the Waupaca School District, dividing her time between the Chain O’ Lakes Elementary School and Waupaca Learning Center.
“I grew up in Middleton. It was rural – very much like the Waupaca area.
As I drive around here, it feels like my childhood home,” she said.
Dolski was a high school student when her family moved to Madison.
“I needed an alternative structure of teaching. I struggled all the way through my school years. I truly understand how grades from all grade levels feel, because of my own personal experiences. My style of learning had a lot to do with it,” she said.
She found what she needed at Madison Alternative High School, which was within James Madison Memorial High School.
“That school really changed things for me. It goes to show that if you make the right choices and have the resources, anyone can change,” Dolski said. “Any student in this district can do that as well. In my opinion, there are no excuses.”
She graduated with her class and is proud to say that she graduated from an alternative high school.
“After I graduated, I didn’t go to college right away. I took a year off and worked retail. I realized that without a college education, you’re not going to do so well,” Dolski said.
She began taking classes at Madison Area Technical College, and unsure of what she wanted to do, took some marketing classes.
Dolski said her stepmother pushed her, telling her that she was college material and so Dolski began taking college transferable credits.
While taking a psychology class at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee she realized the career direction she wanted to take. It was also there that she met her husband, Jeff, who is a guidance counselor at Waupaca High School.
“I met Jeff in the Sociology of Collective Behavior class. By the time we graduated, we were an item,” she said.
They graduated in 1994 and were married in 1996.
Her first job was working for Rock County Human Services as a child protective services assessment worker.
The couple moved to Janesville, and Dolski said she learned much during that experience but that both she and Jeff missed Milwaukee.
“We both were exploring different careers. We moved back to Milwaukee. I worked for about three years in marketing. I was a purchasing agent for a promotional marketing firm in the Milwaukee area,” she said. “I was getting bored with it. He was bored working in banking.”
Jeff decided to go to graduate school for counseling at UW-Milwaukee, and about a year later, so did she.
While in graduate school, Dolski became excited about counseling in schools, as her work involved learning about special education and inclusion, and also about testing and achievement gaps.
She graduated with an emphasis in K-9 counseling, because she was interested in working with younger students.
However, that did limit her job options.
“There weren’t many job openings at the time, so I didn’t get a school counseling position right away. But, I did find work in the Milwaukee County birth to 3 program. I worked with that four years and very much enjoyed it,” she said.
Dolski also worked as a service coordinator at the St. Francis Children Center in Milwaukee, helping to link families and their children to programs.
“Then, we had a child and wanted to move north,” she said. “We ended up in central Wisconsin.”
That is when Jeff became a guidance counselor at the high school. She was a special needs program supervisor for the Portage County Health and Human Services Department for about four years. And, now she is working in the Waupaca School District.
“As soon as the position opened, I jumped at the chance,” Dolski said. “This is what I always wanted to do. I really wanted to work with children. I know how it is to struggle. I want to celebrate successes with children.”
She said that as a parent, she can empathize with other parents.
“I’ve always wanted to work in a school,” she said, “because I have the utmost respect for teachers and administrators. They are what got me to where I am. I am honored to be working side by side with them now.”
She and Jeff have two children: 7-year-old Sophia and 3-year-old Maxwell.
“Family is very important. Everything revolves around us being together every moment we can,” Dolski said.
They live in rural Almond, where they have a greenhouse and a big garden in the summer.
In regard to her position as a guidance counselor, she said she wants to encourage parents to call if they have concerns, whether they are about the classroom or about what is happening at home.