I grew up just outside Willow River in a home my dad and our whole family built. I have two brothers and five sisters, but have also shared my family with many foster children and foreign exchange students.
After graduating high school, I moved to St. Paul to attend Hamline University. We were not the right fit, so I took a break from school to live life. During this time, I was a nanny for triplet boys, and absolutely loved it. However, in the summer of 2000, as they were preparing to become future kindergartners, I knew that I needed a change and that I needed to start working on my future. I moved to Duluth with the knowledge that I needed to return to school, but without knowing exactly what to go to school for.
I moved into a huge house (“The Big House”) with eight roommates, one of which later became my husband. I returned to school, but still could not find my fit, so I became a behavioral management counselor at Northwood Childrens’ Home. I worked on their girls’ team and absolutely loved it. After two years at Northwood’s, I moved to Sandstone. My husband’s parents had given him ten acres of land, so we decided to move here to build our home. A short time later, we were married in the back yard surrounded by family, friends, fireworks, and Ragnar. (Yes, Ragnar, the Vikings mascot. Coolest present ever! Did I mention I am a HUGE Vikings fan?) We have also brought three babies into our home. We have two daughters and one son.
Upon moving back to Sandstone, I began work at Pine Habilitation and Supported Employment, (PHASE). PHASE is an employment program for adults with disabilities and severe and persistent mental illness. I worked at their south location for six months and was then given the opportunity to become a paraprofessional in the Hinckley high school’s special education department. Both of these positions were amazing, and they lead me back to school, but this time, with a better idea of my fit.
I attended Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College where I earned my AAS in human services. With this degree, I returned to PHASE and became their Transition/Employment Support Specialist. My career continued to transition with this company and helped to create and build PHASE Recycling, where I became the director. During this time, I decided to return to school and earned my bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, Duluth in psychology. I then expanded my role and was the PHASE North and Recycling Operations Director. To finish my time with PHASE, I was the Program Participant Support Specialist.
I knew for several years that my calling was to be a therapist, and the opportunity arose to return to school, again. I attended the College of St. Scholastica in their clinical social work program and earned my Masters of Social Work degree and my subsequent licensed graduate social worker license.
Through my master’s program, I interned with Therapeutic Services Agency in their day treatment program and their school-linked mental health program at the Pine City schools. I was offered a position at East Central schools and was ecstatic to take it. All three of my children attend East Central, and its trauma-informed and family-based culture is one that I was incredibly proud to be a part of.
In 2019, I became honored and humbled to enter into a partnership with my mother, Coral Popwitz, to expand her private practice, Monarch Counseling Service. I continue to practice in the East Central schools and enjoy collaborating and supporting the students, staff, and our community partners. I also offer services through telehealth for those with obstacles to accessing services. Along with my work, I am lucky to bring my emotional support dog, Norman, to the school. He has become a staple at East Central and if you ever find yourself walking down the hall, you will hear the sound of children yelling out “Norm!” or you may seem him quietly sitting next to a child who is working to calm down and regulate their emotions and body.
In the work that I do, I support people of all ages, from birth through adulthood. However, children are my passion. With my clients, I work with them to assess, including DC 0-5 assessments, create treatment goals, and support them on their healing journeys. My work focuses on attachment and trauma interventions and support, including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). I love to utilize play, art, and sand tray with my clients. I also love to share my experience with others through educational presentations and trainings.
When I am not working, I love spending time with my family, being in the outdoors, the Vikings, camping, and watching my kids play and have fun.