As part of our ongoing series Meet Our GDS Faculty and Staff, we are excited to present: Meet Meryl Heyliger!
Read the Q&A below to learn more about Meryl.
Primary Role: Lower School Counselor, Counseling Services Department Chair
Years at GDS: Nine years
What do you love about GDS?
The community! I always look forward to being with the people I work with—students and adults alike. We can get into unexpected and very interesting conversations. I'm always learning something new or thinking about something differently, sharing a laugh, and/or working through a challenge. I feel respected and valued at GDS and believe that is the case for most others. There's so much collaboration that happens here and such a desire to grow and do better. It helps me to be my best.
Why do you do your job?
I want to help others to be their best selves. The way I do that at GDS is by listening, engaging in conversations, guiding others in efforts to solve problems, and keeping our overall well-being at the forefront. I'm a school counselor because I love working with children. I appreciate the opportunities to support them in managing feelings, developing new ways of managing situations, and enhancing their perspectives in whatever they are navigating.
In addition, I'm constantly thinking about how identity factors into an individual's approach to something. That thinking pushes me to get creative when I'm talking to kids about who they are, how that shapes their decision-making, and more.
A favorite part of your job?
A favorite part of my job is going to lead a class lesson or join a class meeting. It’s so great when we get into a great conversation, and where the students seem genuinely interested and thoughtful about the topic. Whether they are sharing ideas, coming to new conclusions, having “Aha!” moments, or just interacting well with each other—those times are truly special. Another favorite part of my job is when I'm in my room and someone seeks my assistance. I always appreciate feeling like I've helped. Being available to talk something through and/or help someone manage a challenging situation are important to me.
Your work style in three words?
Open. Interested. Thoughtful.
Other GDS activities or roles that community members may not know about?
Meryl has been a Girl Scout troop leader for eight years. She is a licensed psychologist with a private practice outside of GDS.
A top hope/wish for your students and/or colleagues?
That individuals recognize when they are having a hard time managing something and they either use strategies to manage the moment or seek help. I want others to feel healthy, recognizing that there's an ebb and flow to life. Times won't always be happy, but they have the capacity to navigate what comes and practice things that ground them. My hope too is that individuals recognize how we are all connected and that they see the value in helping others.
I'm looking for a new hobby! Lately, I've been listening to a lot of audiobooks, but I used to enjoy reading books, too. I love being a part of my neighborhood book club. I also enjoy spending time with my family and friends, traveling, eating out, taking long walks with my dog, trying new activities, and binge-watching great shows (comedy or intense drama). I also like going for bike rides and going to sporting events, though I don't do either enough.
A few favorites…?
Something else I don't do often, but I really enjoy is baking and listening to 80s music.
There are many books and movies that I love but I can't think of one in particular that I'd say is my favorite. One book that is especially influential though is Faces at the Bottom of the Well by Derek Bell. Mary J Blige is one of my favorite singers.
Tell us about a recent favorite moment.
I love the beach and this summer was the first time I lounged solo for hours during the early part of the day and then the rest of my family joined me in the late afternoon/early evening. Three days in a row we got dinner, watched the sunset, and stayed on the beach until after dark and it was fantastic.
One thing about yourself your students/colleagues/others probably don't know?
I'm probably more introverted than I let on. And, I'd love to be more artistic. I just took a class doing activities designed to promote creativity and, if I could, I would take art classes regularly.
One thing on your life "bucket list" you've already accomplished?
Becoming a licensed psychologist
Visiting countries in Africa. I’ve been to Benin, Ghana, and South Africa so far.
One thing on your life “bucket list” you have yet to accomplish?
Going to Wimbledon.
With a tip from Meryl, we reached out to hear what a colleague had to say...
High School counselor Gabrielle Holder wrote, “Meryl is simply an outstanding colleague. We are lucky to have her as part of our team and part of GDS. She ALWAYS dials in for 'more' when it comes to GDS. She is an incredibly thoughtful, compassionate, and engaged leader both on and off campus. She is loved by all that know her and you can count on her to offer sage advice, gentle encouragement, and deep wisdom that comes with a good dose of humor. She is witty, funny, and brilliant. If you get to know Meryl, consider yourself lucky. And if you do not know her yet, be sure to knock on her door and stop in to chat, though you will likely find her with students and colleagues all over the school doing the 'good work'. I promise, getting to know Meryl will be worth your time.
A couple of interesting things about Meryl: Did you know that Meryl knows almost every song from The Smiths, is a pescatarian, has a dog named Buju (her third child), and is teaching herself French? I dare you to sing a few lyrics to her and see if she can name the song!