LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Johanna Druen

Position: School Counselor
School: West Terrace Elementary School
School District: Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation
City, State: Evansville, IN

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Johanna Druen was nominated anonymously.

Before Ms. Druen became a school counselor, she already knew that attending to students' emotional needs took priority over their academic needs. In her second year of teaching, she had a high school student come to her and ask if it would be OK if they turned in their homework the next day. Their father had been shooting at them the night before, so they didn't get their homework done.

Ms. Druen had told her students at the beginning of the semester to come to her if they needed an extension because "life happens" and she would understand. She didn't know her flexible classroom policy would be needed for such a traumatic event. It really solidified for her that kids have so much more going on at home than just doing homework, and they need someone at school to be a safe place. She has become that safe place for numerous students in her 30 years in education.

That safe place has been needed even more in the past two years with the pandemic causing everyone to feel a heightened sense of alarm and fear. Ms. Druen goes into classrooms and talks about how the brain's response to fear works. She guides students through the process of calming their bodies so that their brains can reset and heal. She teaches her students about the negative effects of not addressing those fears or any of the negative emotions they experience. Ms. Druen desperately wants kids to see that they are empowered to help themselves heal. She has also been participating in a trauma-informed therapy study to provide trauma therapy to her students while also advancing research into how trauma therapy at school can impact students' lives. This is in addition to the many other duties and responsibilities she has as an elementary school counselor in her district. With over 600 students, she stays busy doing her best to support these kids.

In the past several months, students have shared with Ms. Druen exactly how much she has impacted them. For example, one student wrote in a note to her, "I love how you take every kid at WT and make them feel safe and needed. You have made an awesome impact on my family."

Other students have said similar things, and their parents have relayed their relief at having someone to ask questions to and share concerns with who will not make them feel judged or dismissed. Ms. Druen genuinely listens with an open heart so that she can listen and provide assistance, no matter what is causing distress.

Additionally, Ms. Druen goes above and beyond to stay up-to-date on the latest research into strategies to assist students who have ADHD, emotional difficulties, and other life challenges so that they can learn to their highest potential.

"Her passion, compassion, and dedication help the students at West Terrace feel loved and supported," said her nominator.



Comments (13)


Christine Hamilton Posted 10 months ago

Thank you for everything you do for our students and staff! Congratulations!

Jessica Mayer Posted 10 months ago

Thank you so much for all that you do for our students and school everyday! We are lucky to have you!

Cindy Posted 10 months ago

Thank you for all you do here at West Terrace.

Trish Kavanaugh Posted 10 months ago

Ms. Druen is an asset to our school. She provides the social emotional support to our students that is so critical as they encounter the challenges that life brings them.

Amy Posted 10 months ago

Thanks for all that you do at WT!

Tammy Jewell Posted 10 months ago

Johanna is positive and always ready to help anyone in need (students and staff). She is amazing with the kids and they just love her. So glad to have her in our school!!

Renae Jackson Posted 10 months ago

Ms. Druen is an asset to our school and does a great job supporting all students. She provides assistance to teachers and students and is up to date on the latest strategies to use with children who are going through a tough season. She always keeps an open mind, listens without judgement, and is a safe place for our students. She is also very good at finding community resources for students and families.

Acacia Peak Posted 10 months ago

It has been a privilege to work with Johanna in different capacities. She always sets the bar high for herself with whatever she does. I first meet her as a teacher at the school where her daughter attended. Johanna took on the role of PTA president and worked faithfully to fulfill those responsibilites. She did a wonderful job in making sure that parents, teachers, and students knew they were loved and valued. More recently, we have worked together as colleagues, each as an elementary school counselor. Johanna is always looking for new ideas, ways to network, and how to develop herself professionally. The wonderful thing about Johanna is her willingness to share those things with others. She doesn't just strive to make herself the best she can be, but also encourages others to do the same. We have also worked together on a team writing curriclum for our school district. Johanna ability to collaborate is outstanding. When you work with her, the process brings out the best of all involved and in turn our students get the best! Johanna does change the lives of those around her and in turn they change lives too!

Natalie Christy Posted 11 months ago

Johanna lights up every room she is in. If anyone is in need, she is the absolute first to jump up and volunteer, spearhead the effort to get others to join in, and has an infectious positive attitude. I met Jo while I was in college and I can’t imagine the amount of impact she would have had on my life had I met her while in grade school and had I had her as a resource. We aren’t very close, have only met in person a handful of times, but she’s one of those people that if I needed something, no matter how large or small, I could reach out to her and she would do everything she could to help. She is one of the most selfless people I have ever met and the world is a better and brighter place with her in it.

Emma Woods Posted 11 months ago

Awesome member of our community!

Natalia Bedtke Posted 11 months ago

Johanna is a fighter! This woman truly does not give up no matter what is put in her pathway. I am so lucky to call this woman a friend and sister. She is a lending hand, a trustworthy confidant, a kind heart, and a tough backbone to any group. She has shaped the lives of so many and will continue to do so daily. She is amazing and so deserving of this recognition!

Gianna Posted 11 months ago

While I have only met Ms. Druen on a few occasions, she absolutely has an amazing energy about her that reels you in. She’s always prepared to listen, guide, and support. She has a healers soul and is there for everybody who crosses her path which is a rarity now a days, but she has done an amazing job instilling that trait in her children.

Laura Rusk Posted 11 months ago

I am the luckiest girl in the world because this amazing woman also happens to be my mom, and I have spent 22 years with a backstage pass to see her change the lives of others. She puts her heart and soul into everything that she does - working countless hours beyond what is expected of her and always searching for ways to improve. Her eyes light up when she learns about new ways to help her students, and she is constantly coming up with her own ideas as well. Her ability to connect with students from all walks of life truly amazes me - she has a special way of making people feel understood. On top of all of the work she does at school, she also serves as a national volunteer for her sorority, where she uses her expertise in mental health to improve the collegiate experience for active members. Last, but certainly not least, she makes time to be an amazing mother to my brother and me. Just as she has created a safe space for her students at school, she has created a safe space in our home. We know that we can come to her with anything. She has been so patient with me through my own struggles with mental health, and she has taught me a lot about processing, coping, and healing. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." I feel very fortunate to have her as my mom, and I know that her students are in the best hands. I love you, mom. You are amazing and you have certainly changed my life.