Meet Ms. Mulvey


Colin Henke

Ms. Mulvey works in her office in the guidance department.

Isabelle Custer

Guidance counselor Erica Mulvey brings a background of working with children and childhood education to her new position as a guidance counselor at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. From babysitting in high school to working with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program for children, Ms. Mulvey has always been most engaged when it was children she was working with; however, it was not until college that studying education and counseling crossed her mind.

Ms. Mulvey initially attended Ithaca College to study communications, but found herself uninterested in the content of her courses. After realizing that she wanted to further pursue a career in education, Ms. Mulvey transferred to Marist College to pursue a dual degree in education and special education. Upon graduating, she worked her first teaching job at her old high school in New Jersey for four months before deciding to go to graduate school at the University of Colorado, Denver.

“I think I got a lot more out of grad school from having taught first. I had real-life experience to apply what I was learning to,” she said. “I didn’t plan on being a counselor, yet. I thought I would teach for a long time, and then if I wanted a change, I would be a counselor.”

While learning about counseling, it was the one-on-one relationships that were most attracting to her. After receiving her master’s, one of her first postgraduate positions was at Bear Creek High School in Lakewood, Colo., where she had more than twice the number of students on her current caseload. She noted the difference that school size makes in a counselor’s ability to foster personal relationships.

“I like it better this way,” she said. “I want to be able to give more individual attention [to students].”
Ms. Mulvey was finishing grad school when the Columbine Massacre happened in 1999. Later, working in the Columbine school district with her husband, Sean, Ms. Mulvey noted the significant effect this event had on them. “Columbine forever changed the landscape of how we think about schools,” she said. “[Crisis preparation] was so ingrained in everything we did out there because of Columbine. We’re catching up here a little bit, but we still have a long way to go to ensure safety for our kids in school.”

Ms. Mulvey moved to the Island eight years ago with Sean, the current assistant principal at the Tisbury School, her son Ben, and her daughter Avery. Their move was driven by the fact that schools on the East Coast offer more opportunity to earn a better living, as well as by a desire to be closer to family.

“Why the Vineyard, I don’t know,” she said, laughing. She added that she wanted to live near the beach because that was the only thing that could make up for leaving the beautiful Colorado mountains.

Her son Ben is a freshman at MVRHS now, and for his whole life he has had a parent with him at school. “At first he did not want to be followed by a parent — again!” said Ms. Mulvey.

Ms. Mulvey, however, does not mind it at all. She noted the little perks — such as his being able to store his saxophone in her room so he doesn’t have to lug it around — but she said she doesn’t see him often in school. Therefore, it works out well for both of them; she is not in his business, but she’s there if it’s helpful.

For Ms. Mulvey, watching students become more independent and grow into adults is the most rewarding experience of all.

What Ms. Mulvey finds to be the most challenging part of her job as a guidance counselor is not always having the answers for kids who are struggling: “There’s not always a magic answer or a fix to help them get through school, and that is probably one of the hardest parts.

“Not every kid fits the traditional mold of high school, and I have found it to be much more difficult on this small Island to find alternative options for students, whereas in Colorado there were plenty of other resources and other schools so that kids could find a way to make it work for them. That is something I want to work on in the next year.

“I really like when you can connect with students on an adult level. I treat them like adults, I consider them adults, so it’s nice to be able to have that kind of relationship, which I think is only possible in high school.”

Ms. Mulvey replaced Ms. Nute, who retired last year.