McNary counselor Todd Bobeda was named a finalist for the 2020 Oregon School Counselor of the Year (Submitted).

McNary High counselor Todd Bobeda calls counseling the “best job in the world” and prides himself on trying to make a difference, one life at a time. 

Bobeda’s commitment to providing guidance and direction to students in the Salem-Keizer School District over the last 15 years hasn’t gone unnoticed, which is why he was named a finalist for the 2020 Oregon School Counselor of the Year. 

“I always longed to be that person that got to go to that deeper level of what students’ needs are. For me, I have some really incredible stories of students, and I get to be the one, mainly just by my position, that gets to help them to make a small adjustment in their life that will hopefully last forever. It’s such a cool job to take a kid that is hurting and give them a little hope,” Bobeda said. 

Bobeda was a counselor at South Salem High School for 13 years before coming to McNary as a counselor in 2019. He was nominated for the award by the counseling team at South Salem

“It was a huge recognition and an awesome honor. It really meant the world to me,” Bobeda said. 

During his tenure at South Salem, the school was recognized as a Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) three separate times by the American School Counselors Association as the counseling team provided data on how the school met the personal, social, academic and college and career needs of students. Bobeda said he is in the process of bringing the RAMP mindset to McNary.

“This team at McNary is phenomenal. They have already had those pieces together, it’s just that the presentation of the data is a lot of work,” Bobeda said. 

Bobeda started at McNary as a special education teacher from 2004 to 2006, where he also was an assistant coach for the soccer, wrestling and tennis programs. Even though he was at South Salem as a counselor for over a decade, Bobeda felt like he returned home when he came back to McNary. 

“I have always had a heart for McNary. To come back here has been incredible,” Bobeda said. “McNary is kind of my home. Even when I left, I knew I wanted to end up back here. I hope I stay here for a long time. It has been a cool return.”

Bobeda approaches his work with joyful exuberance, which rubs off to both his students and his coworkers. 

“Todd is a great guy — super easy to get along with and committed to his work. To have him back at McNary has been really special. He is a really positive coworker to have on staff. He is a glass-half-full kind of guy. He always finds a way to put a positive spin on anything,” McNary principal Erik Jespersen said. “His positive attitude transfers to all the people that he interacts with. He genuinely cares about all the people he works for and with.”

Along with being a counselor, Bobeda served in the military for 25 years before retiring in April. For the last 16 years, Bobeda would serve one weekend per month as a warrant officer with the Oregon National Guard — along with teaching suicide and depression awareness for soldiers. 

Juggling his responsibilities as a husband and father of four along with his counseling and military duties was stressful for Bobeda at times, but he was proud to serve his country.

“It was difficult because of 12-day work weeks I would have to endure each month but it was still pretty cool. It was fun to be a part of a number of different units,” Bobeda said. “And I got to use my counseling background to help young soldiers that were in need.”

For the last 10 months, Bobeda has had to reinvent the way he works as a counselor due to the COVID-19 pandemic, relying mostly on emails and Zoom calls when communication with students. 

Over the course of this school year, Bobeda has been able to volunteer during limited in-person instruction at McNary, talking about suicide curriculum in wellness classes. However, he said his job has become more difficult since the pandemic began.

“It is a lot different. You have to work harder, because nobody is sending kids down when they have a rough day,” Bobeda said. “I miss the facial connection. So much of language in non-verbal, and some of the kids that need me the most won’t pick up a telephone.”

Even though he can’t meet with kids face-to-face, Bobeda’s care for his students has never wavered. 

“My goal is to help kids understand that someone cares about them. It’s incredible to have the (administration) at McNary support like they do. I love this job,” Bobeda said.