Mr. Gaetjens Recognized by the State of Illinois as the Graduate Student of the Year!

Mr. Gaetjens Recognized by the State of Illinois as the Graduate Student of the Year!


He is one of the coolest, humblest, and sharpest members of PMA’s faculty and staff. Mr. Jahn Gaetjens, Phoenix’s newest counseling intern, was recognized by the Illinois School Counselor Association (ISCA) as the Graduate Student of the Year for going above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of students here at Phoenix as well as creating an atmosphere where students can thrive and achieve to the best of their abilities.

Realizing his capabilities to spark positive change amongst the student body at Phoenix, Mr. Gaetjens was nominated by counselors Mrs. Matz and Ms. Fairchild. He was also written an outstanding letter of recommendation by his colleague Mr. Bernthal.

“I am honored to recognize Jan’s tremendous talent, charisma, and versatility as a school leader. Students love him, staff respect him, and all of us at PMA are grateful for his generous contributions to our school this year,” wrote Mr. Bernthal.

Gaetjens is a part-time intern but the impact he has had on PMA’s academic culture almost seems as if he is a full-time counselor. He is the key organizer for the teacher-to-senior mentor meetings, he counsels many of the freshmen, and he played a huge role in helping launch PMA’s first ever Black Student Union.

He is equally astonishing outside of Phoenix’s school community. Mr. Gaetjens currently studies at Depaul University with the aspiration to obtain his Doctorate Degree. He also does research at the University of Chicago on poverty and violence. He even co-authored a book about counseling techniques used for teenagers who have endured trauma. The book will be published  in May and used in counseling graduate classes at Depaul.

“He is simply amazing; he deserved to win this award,” said Mrs. Matz.

His astounding credentials were major aspects in him becoming a recipient of the Graduate Student of the Year Award. However, the overriding factor that allowed him to become a recipient was his unconditional love and passion for mentoring students and guiding them to create better lives and brighter futures for themselves.

“If you want to be effective in working with students you have to put your work first and yourself second. I want to see students graduating from college four years from now because that is what my work is about. Ultimately, my job is to create the space for students to accomplishment extraordinary things,” said Mr. Gaetjens.

In hearing about him becoming the awardee of the Graduate of the Year Award, Mr. Gaetjens was appreciative of the positive recognition of his co-workers.

“I was extremely grateful for the acknowledgement of my colleagues and for the validation of educators in this school who I seek to emulate. Above all else, I feel indebted to the students here at Phoenix. If our students weren’t as talented and capable as they are, I wouldn’t be receiving any award. Me winning this award is a 100% reflection of students here at Phoenix,” said Gaetjens.

Congratulations to Mr. Gaetjens on this wonderful accomplishment as the winner of the Illinois Graduate Student of the Year Award! He will be recognized Friday, April 21, 2017 at the Illinois School Counselor Association Conference in Rosemont, Illinois.