A counseling department plays a vital role in a school’s ability to meet the needs of all students. Maricopa Unified School District’s Counseling Department has grown to 16 full-time counselors, and Sequoia Pathway Academy has a counselor in its campus. Among them, they have earned more than 15 master’s degrees. MUSD is applying for the School Safety Grant through Arizona Department of Education to support future growth. MUSD has four guidance counselors, a mental health counselor, a college and career coordinator, an Ak-Chin advisor and an Exceptional Student Services counselor who serve the high school. There are four school counselors, an Ak-Chin advisor and an ESS counselor serving the middle schools, and three full-time elementary school counselors, an Ak-Chin advisor and an ESS counselor serving elementary schools. Four of the counselors hold clinical supervisor licensure through the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health.


Maricopa High School Counseling Department

Maricopa High School Counseling Department:
Seniors – Vanessa Stone. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Vanessa Stone (seniors)
Stone is a new addition to the counseling department at MHS. Stone received a Master of Science in clinical mental health counseling from Prescott College with a focus on ecopsychology and wilderness therapy, and bachelor’s degree in social work from Weber State University. Stone has a profound love and passion for people and connection with the natural world. Their prior work has included leading activity-based, adventure work and ecotherapy interventions with youth and adults in a variety of group settings. Outside work, Stone loves to spend time exploring with their dog, Xavier, rollerblading and swimming.

Maricopa High School Counseling Department: Juniors – Larry Veltrie. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Larry Veltrie (juniors)

“I have been privileged to have graduated almost 1,400 seniors in my 12 years here.” Veltrie received his B.A. at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington, and a master’s degree from Whitworth University in Spokane.

Deana Paine (sophomores)

“I have been at Maricopa High School since 2012, starting as a math teacher before moving into the position of school counselor. I completed a BS in psychology at the University of Illinois, an M.S. in education and counseling psychology from the University of Kentucky and an M.S. in academic advising from Kansas State University. Married for 30 years, my husband and I have five children (including three MHS grads!) and one grandchild. I love baseball, travel, reading and spending time with my family and our dogs.”

Maricopa High School Counseling Department: Sophomores – Deana Paine. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos
Maricopa High School Counseling Department: Freshman – Mark Lavit. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Mark Lavit (freshmen)
“I have over 16 years of experience working in the behavioral health field and in education. I have worked in a variety of capacities, which include clinical supervisor, integrated care manager, rehabilitation counselor, case manager, high school guidance counselor and career counselor. I consider myself a lifelong learner and am currently seeking my doctoral degree in organizational leadership. When I am not working, I am usually with my two children, who are in third grade and kindergarten. We love taking road trips up north with our family dog and spending time with our horses.”

Maricopa High School Counseling Department: Ak-Chin – Teresa Valisto

Teresa Valisto (Ak-Chin students)
“I am a member of the Ak-Chin Indian Community. I am married to Benjamin Valisto, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Our two daughters and I are graduates of MHS. I have been working as the Ak-Chin Student counselor 23 years. I started working in 1996 and have seen many changes over the years. I am here to assist students and the staff so that our students can be more successful in their education. I enjoy my job working with the students of the Ak-Chin Indian Community. They are like my own children and I am here for them.”

Maricopa High School Counseling Department: College and Career Coordinator – Bernadette Russoniello. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Bernadette Russoniello (College and Career coordinator)

“Serving at MHS 18 years, I am excited by my current role in advising students on opportunities beyond high school and organizing impactful events and experiences for college and career. I attended Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College attaining concurrent degrees in English and history, a post-baccalaureate in secondary education, and an M.Ed. in curriculum design and instruction, in addition to an M.Ed. in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University. My years as an educator have taught me learning never stops, education and knowledge cannot be static, and a professional community of support is essential for success.”

Maricopa High School Counseling Department: Mental Health Counselor – Lynette Nelson. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Lynette Nelson (Mental Health)

“Originally from New Jersey, I have lived in Idaho, Washington, Colorado, Wisconsin and Korea. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in counseling from Arizona State University and a master’s in public administration from the University of Colorado. I have worked with children and families over 30 years. My husband and I have six children and five grandchildren. I love to travel, make jewelry and play with Peaches, my 4-year-old pug. I have a passion for supporting young people and am thrilled to be here at Maricopa High School.”

Maricopa High School Counseling Department: Exceptional Student Services Counselor – Amber Liermann. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Amber Liermann (Exceptional Student Services)
“This is my 16th year here at MUSD as an ESS counselor. My favorite part of my job is seeing students achieve their goals. I live in Maricopa and have three children attending MUSD. I am a foster parent and have positive relationships with community agencies. In my free time I enjoy working out at the gym and riding my motorcycle.”

Sequoia Pathway Academy Counseling: Rebecca Collins

Sequoia Pathway Academy

Rebecca Collins

“I have been a school counselor seven years and currently, for the past two years, have worked at Sequoia Pathway. I have three children – a senior, a sophomore and a seventh grader. My family has been in Maricopa 13 years, and I’ve been married for 20 years. I love our community and I am grateful every day that I get the opportunity to work with the students of Maricopa.”


Maricopa Wells Middle School

Laura Lopez

“I was born and raised in Phoenix. I began my journey as a school counselor in 2011 at Maricopa Wells. I have a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University in social work and a master’s degree in education – school counseling from Ottawa University. I enjoy working with students and their families. My husband Rodolfo Lopez and I welcomed our beautiful daughter, Isabel, in 2017. She definitely keeps us busy. We love traveling and spending time in the Bay Area visiting family when we get the chance.”

Maricopa Wells Middle School: Laura Lopez – School Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos
Maricopa Wells Middle School: Danielle Baird – School Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Danielle Baird

“My role is to assist MWMS students with their academic, career and social/emotional development. I have been working as a school counselor in MUSD since 2014 and am a resident of our great city of Maricopa. Originally from New Jersey, I have a dual bachelor’s degree in psychology/justice studies and my Master of Arts in counseling psychology specializing in school counseling and mental health. I have worked previously in the juvenile justice system, child welfare and social service fields. Before I transferred to MWMS, I served at both MHS and Desert Wind Middle School.”

Desert Wind Middle School: Jackie Kellar – Exceptional Student Services Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Jackie Kellar (Exceptional Student Services)

“I am the ESS counselor for Desert Wind, Maricopa Wells and Maricopa Elementary. I have my master’s degree from University of Denver in social work and am an independently licensed clinical social worker. I am married and have three children. I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom. Similar to Olaf, I like warm hugs. I can truffle shuffle with the best of them because nobody puts baby in a corner. I love working with kids especially being their biggest cheerleader. I am trained in CBT, DBT, solution-focused therapy and mindfulness, because there is no crying in baseball.”


Desert Wind Middle School 

Desert Wind Middle School: Rudolph Skeete – School Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Rudolph Skeete

Skeete earned a master’s degree in education and counseling with PPS credentials, licensee professional clinical counseling recertification from Azusa Pacific University; Child Welfare & Attendance credentials from California State University, Dominguez Hills; and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration from California State University, Los Angeles. He brings over 20 years’ experience as an educator, 13 as a counselor in middle and high schools. “I truly love working in collaboration with students, parents and staff; enjoy cooking a variety of foods from around the world. Track and field is my favorite sport, but I also played professional rugby in South America.”

Desert Wind Middle School: Molly Colgan – School Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Molly Colgan

“I was born and raised in Arizona and cannot imagine calling anywhere else home. I first realized that I wanted to go into the field of education while I was in the sixth grade, and I never strayed from this path. I graduated from Northcentral University with my bachelor’s in secondary education – English. I became an eighth-grade English language arts teacher in Phoenix and later returned to school myself and received my Master of Education degree in school counseling from Ottawa University. In my spare time, I like to read, write, learn and travel cross-country by train.”


Butterfield Elementary and Santa Cruz Elementary

Butterfield Elementary and Santa Cruz Elementary: Tara Roy-Pablo – School Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Tara Roy-Pablo

Roy-Pablo has been a counselor with MUSD since 2006. She worked four years at MWMS, six years at MHS and recently began working at Butterfield Elementary and Santa Cruz Elementary. She is a licensed MSW with the AZ Board of Behavioral Health Examiners, a Certified Guidance Counselor and School Social Worker with the Arizona Department of Education and serves as a field liaison with Arizona State University’s School of Social Work. In her spare time, she enjoys hanging out with her family, road-trips, gardening and spending time with friends.


Santa Rosa Elementary and Saddleback Elementary

Santa Rosa Elementary and Saddleback Elementary: Alyse Belletti – School Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos


Alyse Belletti

“I am starting my second year with MUSD as an elementary school counselor. I was born in Colorado Springs but consider myself a native as I have lived in Arizona a majority of my life. At Arizona State University, I graduated summa cum laude with a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. Most of my professional career has been spent working as a clinical therapist, providing community-based services to children with autism. In my spare time, you will find me with my family and two German shepherds. I enjoy camping, traveling and making lifelong memories.”


Maricopa Elementary and Pima Butte Elementary

Maricopa Elementary and Pima Butte Elementary: Anna Luna – School Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Anna Luna

“I have my master’s degree in social work from Loma Linda University and an undergrad in sociology with a minor in psychology. I have been in the education and social work field since 2006 and have worked for Native American reservations, public K-12 schools and in drug prevention education. I am a board member of Mindfulness First. I teach cultural competency in social work at the college level and work as a community liaison for Cornerstone Healing Center in Scottsdale. I am a foster mother-turned-adoptive mother to two amazing little kiddos who have caused me gray hairs and deep laugh lines.”

Maricopa Unified School District K-5 Counselor: Ak-Chin – Sheila Bandin

Sheila Pablo-Bandin (Ak-Chin)
“I am the Ak-Chin K-5th grade advisor for students of MUSD. I oversee all students of the Ak-Chin Indian Community with the permission of our parents/guardians. As the K-5th the adviser/tutor I am responsible for providing educational guidance and assistance for students and families within the MUSD. I have been in my position over 13 years and have found my home to help support my community and MUSD schools. I am grateful to be working with an amazing staff and am looking forward to the continued partnership.”

Dawnielle Castellanos Exceptional Student Services Elementary Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Dawniele Castellanos (Exceptional Student Services)

Castellanos is a licensed clinical social worker in Arizona. She is a transplant from California and has lived in Arizona for the past 13 years. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Azusa Pacific University and her master’s degree in social work from California State University of Long Beach. Castellanos has worked with children, youth, and families since receiving her master’s degree. She likes to travel, read and go to movies.

This item appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.