- Falmouth Public Schools
Unsung Hero: Stephanie Andrade
The Unsung Hero is designated by Superintendent of Schools Lori S. Duerr to shine a well-deserved spotlight on individuals in the Falmouth Public Schools who make invaluable contributions to the district.
Stephanie Andrade: Experience and Empathy
Stephanie Andrade never envisioned herself working in education, but when she joined the Guidance Department at Lawrence School at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, she immediately felt at home.
A 1997 graduate of Falmouth High School, Stephanie attended Westfield State College and majored in criminal justice with the intent of becoming a juvenile parole officer. After college, she started working for the Key Program, a Cape Cod nonprofit agency, where she would spend the next 13 years. Her first role was at an emergency shelter for children who had been placed there by the Department of Children and Families because they couldn’t remain in their own homes.
“I felt very compassionate toward those kids, who were there for all different reasons, and had to navigate the emotions of everything they were going through,” she said.
“I think that’s when my gears kind of shifted, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, I started to move more toward social work.”
As a student in Falmouth Public Schools, Stephanie saw firsthand how a caring adult can make a positive difference for a child. Her father, Bill Andrade, was a longtime physical education teacher, spending the majority of his career at Morse Pond School. He also established a club soccer program in the 1980s for Falmouth youth and later served as the boys’ varsity soccer coach at Falmouth High School.
As an adult, Stephanie continues to see the far-reaching effects of those connections, especially for students who needed that personal interaction.
“For years, I’ve had people come up to me and say that school wasn’t necessarily their favorite place but my dad was their favorite teacher, and he always went out of his way to make them feel comfortable,” she said.
In 2015, Stephanie earned her MSW from Bridgewater State University’s School of Social Work, and spent the next five years with DCF, first as a social worker and eventually becoming an adolescent supervisor.
After the pandemic, Stephanie decided she was ready for a change. Although it was a difficult decision, it led to an equally rewarding career path.
Now in her second year as a Behavioral Support Counselor at Lawrence, Stephanie was hired to augment the guidance department’s services, working with students to achieve positive outcomes by fostering conflict resolution and helping students work through challenges that impact their academic or social-emotional behavior. Sometimes that involves visiting the classroom to address a situation in the moment. When students need additional support, her office offers a place where they know they can safely share, be heard, or simply take some time away from a situation in order to regulate their emotions.
Witnessing the tangible effects of those student interactions is Stephanie’s favorite aspect of her role.
“At this age, kids are experiencing everything at once, so it’s really rewarding to see them smiling in the hallways, interacting with one another, and just being kids,” she said.
“Seeing them proud and happy and able to accomplish things throughout their day is the best part of my job.”
Stephanie credited the administration at Lawrence - Principal Tom Bushy, Assistant Principal Derrick Zarra, and Special Education Building Assistant Dr. Meg Valdes - for fostering a supportive, inclusive environment. She also appreciates the opportunity to work with her colleagues in the guidance department.
“From the top down, we have a really great team. I love going to work every day, and I say all the time how lucky I feel to be able to learn from everyone here and their many years of experience,” she said.
“It’s obvious the people in this building really care about kids. They’re able to recognize when students aren't having their best day by being supportive and asking what students need in order to be successful.”
Stephanie also serves on the school Literacy Committee, the Building-Based Equity Team, and as assistant coach for the girls’ soccer team. But in addition to her involvement and dedication to the school, Principal Tom Bushy emphasized her emotional intelligence.
"Stephanie's positive contributions to Lawrence School are too many to list here. Above all though, her eagerness to let compassion guide all of her interactions with students and staff has made the biggest impact,” Mr. Bushy said.
School Adjustment/Guidance Counselor Selby Bourne highlighted Stephanie’s experience.
"Stephanie has been a great addition to our counseling team at Lawrence School. She brings a wealth of knowledge from working with adolescents and their families,” she said.
“She has the ability to build meaningful connections with students, as well as jump into situations for support as needed throughout the day.”
Connect/Bridge Counselor Amanda Sample credited her interpersonal skills.
"Stephanie always brings an open mind and positive perspective on problem-solving situations,” she said.
School Adjustment/ Guidance Counselor Nina Casavant agreed.
“Her calming presence helps to make students feel comfortable and supported,” she said.
Stephanie is equally appreciated by the students at Lawrence.
"She is easy to go to when you need something - help with a school or outside of school issue. She's always willing to listen to what kids have to say. She advocates for kids. She always helps with the subs and stuff, and helps out with lunch at the lunch table,” said eighth-grader Dennis Stone.
Seventh-grader Soloe Monteiro credited Stephanie’s ability to forge connections with her students.
"She is very supportive with the work she does. I feel like she deserves this recognition because she is trying to make people feel like they are appreciated and they deserve to be here,” she said.
“A lot of kids don't feel like they belong, but she is trying her best to make them feel like they do, which is amazing work."
That impact can also be seen in Stephanie's office, evidenced by a gift she received in her first year at Lawrence - a handmade shelf created by Rylee Byron, now a freshman at Falmouth High School, when she was a student in Bob Porto’s eighth-grade engineering class. It's personalized with a hand-carved sentiment that reads: “We love Ms. Andrade,” using a heart symbol to signify love.
For Stephanie, the sentiment is mutual.
“It’s hard to put into words, but as soon as I first walked through the doors, I really felt like I belonged,” she said.
“This has been such a positive change for me. I feel so fortunate to be here, and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.”