EVA GEORGAKLIS/SAGAMORE STAFF
School psychologist Christen Fanelli grew up in Westchester County, New York, and currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts. She loves to go on hikes, swims, and runs with her dog. She is excited to be a help to the students of the high school, and her favorite part of the school is walking through the quad and getting a breath of fresh air.
What inspired you to become a school psychologist?
I was a teacher in New York City for a while- I taught high school biology. I felt like there had to be more that I could do for the kids who were struggling than I knew how to do, especially given the confines of New York City schools. I wanted to learn more about that, and I didn’t want to get a masters in teaching- that just didn’t seem like me. So I went and I learned more about how to help kids learn. I got a masters in counseling to try in help that way too, and I did guidance counseling and college counseling and that kind of stuff for a little while. Then I started reading more of the physics reports that we got, and thought that I really wanted to do that, so I went back into school again to do school psychology. It was at Fordham University, in New York City.
What are your hobbies, and how have they changed over time?
I just finished my doctorate degree about a year ago, so I’ve done about eight years of graduate school in my life, which is a lot. I wouldn’t recommend it because I haven’t had a lot of free time to read. I wasn’t a very avid reader, but I used to like to read every now and then, I just haven’t lately. We do so many articles and studying and this and that so I can’t remember the last time I opened a novel. I also used to do puzzles, that was like my mindfulness ‘me time’, and I haven’t had a lot of time for that lately, either. I think that’s grad school- you do so much sitting and reading. When I have free time now, I try and be more active because I’ve been sitting for so long.
What was your childhood like?
I had a pretty typical childhood. It was very suburban: house, white picket fence, a dog. I was an avid gymnast growing up. I was a gymnast for about eight or nine years until I hurt my knee, and that kind of sidelined me for awhile. I dove for a little while, trying to do the same thing, and I couldn’t do halves because I was too scared to land on my head… That kind of scared me, but it took up a lot of my time as a kid. There’s a lot of traveling involved in it, not like baseball where you’re just playing the team over there.
Where did you spend most of your time when you were younger?
Probably in the gym for gymnastics. In high school, after I hurt my knee, I did track and field. I ran sprints, but I was mostly a fielder. I also did shot put and discus. Because I’m tall, they had me do those but I was actually really good at them. Shot put was not easy but because I’m tall people said that I had physics going for me, so it worked out to my advantage. I got away with not running all throughout high school. It was a joke that I was a track athlete and the furthest I ran for three seasons was down the runway to the sandpit. It was literally fourteen steps because you had to run it, so that’s the most I ran for a whole season.
What was your high school experience like?
I was definitely not the popular kid in high school, but I kind of preferred it that way. I was more of a wallflower. I began observing and being more interested in how people interact and connect; I think that’s because I’m so introverted. Especially in high school, that’s such a big thing, and I kind of sat in the background watching it all happen. That was my first touch into realizing how snowball things happen, especially in social situations.
What advice would you give to your high-school self?
Just to be flexible. I feel like most high-schoolers either really one hundred percent know what they want to do or have no idea what they want to do, and I think both of them are wrong. I think Brookline has a lot of great electives but all of a sudden there are so many more things you can study in college than you ever thought was possible, and so many different jobs that exist out there that you never knew existed. Like if I had known that ‘candy taster’ was a job, I think I might have a completely different life. So just be open to whatever, especially in college, and try everything out. Be open because you never know what experiences are going to change your mind about things or open new doors for you.