Like most faculty on the Lawrence Academy campus, Sean Sheehan wears many hats: Director of LA College Counseling, history teacher, varsity football coach, assistant boys’ varsity hockey coach, and advisor.
To cap it all off (no pun intended) he is also an alum, having graduated in 1987.
It’s not about the job…
“I’d have to go back to when I was a student here,” Mr. Sheehan said when asked about his decision to become an educator.
“I was really amazed at how much time and energy the teachers invested in me, which made a huge difference in my development as a student.
“So, when I was in college and started to think about what careers might be attractive to me, I kept coming back to the impact that some of the adults in the Lawrence community had on me,” he said.
Mr. Sheehan remembers, as a student, “one of my former coaches coming over to my house during the summer to have dinner with my parents to explain how the whole college process would work, because no one in my family had ever gone to college.”
This action on his coach’s part stuck with him.
“I was like, wow, this person…this isn’t about his job, he really cares about people, and I think that’s where Lawrence Academy — if you go back to our mission — we really live it: we meet each kid where they are, and then really try to make them better, in all areas of their life here.”
Today, Sean finds himself coaching, teaching and providing the same level of guidance and encouragement he received from his coach so many years ago. In the process, he has witnessed and experienced his fair share of transformations.
“We had this one young man,” he recollected, “and I remember when he graduated, he was sitting on his bed crying. And I said, ‘What’s up?’, and he said, ‘I can’t put into words how much this place has changed my life.’
“And if you’d known this student as a freshman; he was struggling in the classroom. However, through his hard work and the investment of the adults in him, he was a first-generation kid going to college—it completely transformed his life.
“So, I think that’s the cool thing when you get to see five hundred other stories like that,” he said.
In the college office, Mr. Sheehan emphasizes, “what we’re trying to have kids figure out is, what’s the best fit for you academically, socially, extracurricularly, and then let’s explore some options where you’re going to be able to continue your growth.”
The fact that Mr. Sheehan is also able to teach history and coach multiple seasons is something that he sees as a major asset to his work as a college counselor.
“When I get a student who becomes my counselee in the college office, most likely I’ve either taught that student or I’ve coached them, so I get to know them in a real genuine, authentic way,” he explained. “So, when it comes time for me to write about them and advise them, I’m coming from a position of really knowing the student in a much different, probably deeper way.”
In a way, Mr. Sheehan has been able to connect his expertise in history, which he majored in at Bowdoin, to the kind of work that occurs in the college office; the two seem to complement each other well.
“I love thinking about the past and how it informs what’s going on in our world today,” he said. “But I think even more important than just history, as I often tell the kids, [is that] it’s a great way for them to learn how to write well, how to communicate well, and how to create arguments and back them up with evidence.”
Reflection, self-awareness, communication: in the college search, as well as in the classroom, it all goes into expanding and broadening student horizons.
by Allie Goodrich ’13
One in a series of occasional features on Lawrence Academy faculty…