A rewarding time in the nation’s capital

For being named Minnesota’s Counselor of the Year, MCC’s Beech was invited to Washington, D.C.

Photo by Jenny Kirk Murray County Central school counselor Mary Beech was recently named the overall Minnesota Counselor of the Year and was invited to Washington, D.C.

SLAYTON — Mary Beech has spent nearly 20 years as a licensed school counselor and said she loves what she does.

For the past 15 years, Beech has served the high school students at Murray County Central. Along with the academic, career and personal counseling services, Beech is also the district’s assessment coordinator and student council adviser.

“I love working with teenagers,” she said. “Sometimes I worry about getting too old to relate to them, but it still seems to be going all right.”

Recently, Beech earned special recognition for her professional efforts as she was selected as the state’s High School Counselor of the Year and then as the overall Minnesota Counselor of the Year.

“Heather Krause, another school counselor from Mankato, nominated me,” Beech said. “We were in grad school together at Minnesota State University, Mankato. We’ve kept in touch and we see each other three times a year at Southwest School Counselors Association events.”

“I was chosen as the High School Counselor of the Year for Minnesota,” Beech said. “They award one person each for elementary, middle school, high school, multi-level and post-secondary, so there’s five School Counselors of the Year. Then from those five, they pick one as the Minnesota School Counselor of the Year who gets to go onto the national level.”

Additional letters of recommendation were then written for Beech by various MCC administrators, teachers and students. Those, along with a video that students helped create, were sent in for the national competition.

“It was really nice of everyone to do that,” Beech said.

While she wasn’t one of the six national finalists, Beech said she thoroughly enjoyed the experience in Washington, D.C.

“For each of the state finalists invited to Washington, D.C., it was pretty much an all-expenses paid trip,” Beech said. “Unfortunately, my husband, John, passed away a year ago from cancer, but he was with me in spirit. My middle child, Dan, went with me, and we had an amazing time. It’s something I’ll always treasure.”

Dan Beech works at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis. Mary Beech said her daughter and son-in-law, Katie and Vince Helmuth, currently reside in Colorado, and that her son and daughter-in-law, Sam and Ashley Beech, live in St. Paul.

Mary Beech said she and her son, Dan, were thrilled to leave the cold Minnesota conditions behind for a few days. The temperature at 6 a.m. in the Twin Cities when they flew out to Washington, D.C., was 27 degrees below zero.

“We left on Thursday morning of the Polar Vortex,” she said. “We got to D.C. and it was 15 degrees. We were like, ‘Wow. This is nice.'”

Beech and her son spent the day sightseeing.

“We went to the monuments and walked by the White House,” Beech said. “Then Thursday night, we went and saw the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. My son plays in an orchestra in the Cities, so he loved it.”

Several special events took place on Friday for all of the counselors. Beech said the guest speaker was Dr. Jill Biden, the former second lady of the United States. A second one on social-emotional learning was moderated by Dr. Tim Shriver.

“He is Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s son and definitely looked like a Kennedy,” Beech said. “That was fun. Then our third panel was on some school counselor research about the effectiveness of school counselors and student to counselor ratios and things.”

Beech was excited when she found out that Ted Allen was the emcee for the morning activities.

“Ted Allen is the host of ‘Chopped’ on the Food Network,” she said. “I binge watch ‘Chopped’ and my whole family watches it. I went up to him afterward and asked to shake his hand. We weren’t supposed to take any pictures, but we went in another room and I got my picture taken with him.”

With the afternoon off, Beech and her son went sightseeing again, beginning with the National Art Gallery.

“It was awesome,” Mary Beech said. “D.C. had a snow day because they got an inch of snow. Nobody was driving around because they just don’t drive in that weather. So there weren’t many people at the museums. The Smithsonians were not very crowded either.”

A black-tie gala ceremony took place on Friday evening.

“I wore a formal dress and Dan wore a suit and tie,” Beech said. “It was at the ballroom at Union Station. We had cocktails first and then a three-course gourmet dinner.”

Beech and all of the other state representatives then went up on stage to receive their plaques.

“It was really great,” she said. “We also had a video message from Michelle Obama, congratulating us. They treated us like royalty. They even had a red carpet when we walked in. It was really cool.”

After experiencing more of what D.C. offered, Beech and her son flew back to Minnesota on Saturday night.

“In three days, we packed in a lot of stuff,” she said. “It was great.”