As Pivot students continue to face a myriad of challenges and hazards to their mental health, Pivot North Bay School Counselor Sarah Gerber-Kai hopes she can give students and parents the tools to cope while still succeeding in their schoolwork.

Sarah has worked in education for most of her career, starting as a teacher’s aide in special education. In that job, she loved connecting with the students but became frustrated because she could see them struggling.

“I didn’t know exactly what was going on with my students,” said Sarah. “I could see they needed more in the classroom but I didn’t know the words to best advocate for them.”

She decided to get a master’s degree from San Francisco State University in social work so Sarah could return to the classroom and help students through their adolescent years. After she graduated, Sarah accepted the position at Pivot because she felt personally connected to the school’s mission since she attended an independent study high school herself.

“I had the flexibility to take care of myself and be able to learn and grow as a young person while completing my education,” Sarah said. “That really attracted me to Pivot, especially when I learned that a lot of the students we work with are going through similar struggles and looking for similar opportunities to build and grow themselves. I wanted to be a part of that.”

Nearly four years later, Sarah and the entire Pivot counseling team try to take a strengths-based, trauma-informed approach to their work. As we continue to work our way out of a pandemic, Sarah noted that community-building is significant to addressing one’s mental health. Luckily, Pivot’s dedication to strengthening relationships strives to bring all students and staff into a supportive family.

“I work with a really talented group of people and in a very supportive work environment,” Sarah said. “The staff we work with are all open and interested in learning about mental health, which is fantastic. The connectedness that our Educational Coordinators have with their students and our families is really rare and provides that opportunity to have those important conversations.”

Sarah said she enjoys growing as a professional with each individual situation and seeing students make breakthroughs, no matter how small.

“Even on the hardest days, there’s always some little nuggets that I can take away,” Sarah said. “A student experiencing some success or some win makes it a good day.”

In her free time, Sarah enjoys hiking, cooking, and gardening.