FALA's School Counseling Department!

Gessica Neilson

Academic Counselor

  • Hi - Z (last names)
  • Testing Coordinator

I graduated with honors from NAU with a BA in International Affairs and a minor in Religious Studies. It was my goal to personally broker world peace and ensure that every child in the world was safe, healthy, and educated. Since the job of Wonder Woman was already taken, I jumped at the chance to be an Academic Counselor at FALA.

In the twenty plus years since graduation from NAU, I have worked in the environmental field as well as in the business world, with my expertise being all things communication and organization.

In May 2014, I moved back to Flagstaff from Tucson and I knew FALA would be a perfect fit for my daughters and for me. I had known about FALA from its inception because I worked at the Grand Canyon Trust, right next door to the old FALA location. Since moving back to Flagstaff, I have been a FALA parent and have worked in a variety of roles at FALA. I know and love the culture of FALA and I embrace the values of the Five Habits of Heart and Mind. I am thrilled to have an integral role in helping every student follow their best path.

My passions in life are: my family, the arts, education, service, social and environmental justice, and adventures big and small. My mind is a very busy place so I find balance in movement, nature, and community.

I love to learn and grow and in an effort to best serve students, I am continually attending workshops and special trainings, such as:

  • Youth Mental Health First Aid
  • Supporting Healthy Sexuality in Teens
  • Title IV-A Symposium: Explore, Enhance, Expand!: "Understanding the Creative Generation," "Culturally Responsive Teaching & Mindfulness: Build Resilient Students and Teachers," "Preparing Students for Civic Life"
  • ECAPs: Moving from Compliance to Best Practices
  • Al Gore's Climate Reality Training
  • NAU Counselor Updates
  • FAFSA 101

Janine Birchard

School Counselor

Currently on Maternity Leave through Spring 20'

  • A - He (last names)
  • 504 Facilitator
  • Dual Enrollment (DE) Coordinator

This year, I will be completing my third year at FALA. I am thrilled to continue to be part of the FALA team! My ultimate goal is to invest in our students and collaborate with FALA staff and the community to prepare our youth for what comes after high school. Part of this entails teaching them how to think critically and honing in on their creativity to ultimately work for the common good. It’s all about using the heart and mind to reach maximum potential!

Flagstaff became my home in the summer of 2015. I came to this mountain town to complete my Masters of Education specializing in School Counseling at Northern Arizona University. While I was studying school counseling, I volunteered at Coconino High School for over a year with the school counseling department. There I found that working in education is a role that fits my niche!

Thank you for choosing FALA! :)

Sun Johnston

School Counselor

Interim Counselor for Ms. Birchard through Spring 20'

  • A - He (last names)
  • 504 Facilitator
  • Dual Enrollment (DE) Coordinator

This will be my eighth year in schools but my very first year at FALA. I could not be more excited to learn and grow with the FALA family. My experience in schools range from a wide variety of roles including teaching in elementary schools, mentoring first year teachers on data, curriculum, and engagement, implementing democratic spaces with civic engagement in elementary schools, and much more. I recently graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Master's in Sustainable Communities, focusing my research on implementing restorative justice in schools.

My goal during the fall semester of 2019, is to uphold the incredible standards of Ms. Birchard and Ms. Nielson. These two women are powerful advocates for students, families, and educators and I am honored to get to walk in their footsteps. In addition, I hope to bring restorative aspects to the counseling role such as nurturing healthy relationships, creating just and equitable learning communities, and mentoring to repair harm and transform conflict. I look forward to working collaboratively with the FALA family!

We were featured on the College Board website!

College Board Opportunity Scholarships: Counselors in Action

Click here for the full article.