The halls of Franklin High School (FHS) are filled with new faces, not just incoming freshmen and new students, but also new FHS staff. As we start the 2022 to 2023 academic year, the FHS administration and counseling departments have some new additions. Although two of the staff in this article began at FHS last year, their additions to the community are vital to the success of our students. We welcome our new Vice Principal (VP) Robyn Griffiths, new school counselor Krystal Toderick and continue to welcome returning school counselors Keixa Bridges and Quan Nguyen.
Griffiths, a native New Yorker, started this fall as a VP at FHS. After receiving her administrative license from the University of Portland, she worked as a dean at Benson High School. For two years, she was a VP at Grant High School, where one of her daughters graduated from. Alongside many other responsibilities, Griffiths oversees Title IX (which she oversaw at Grant), the reinvention of our STRONG values, the Advanced Placement Program (AP), designing the master schedule for the upcoming year, curriculum, the climate committee, honor roll, the Talented and Gifted Program (TAG), essential skills, and the Advanced Scholars Program. She describes her move to FHS as providing new opportunities for growth and learning.
“Oftentimes, we’re so bogged down with bureaucracy, doing all the paperwork for things, that we don’t get a chance to [go into classrooms], but when I do it really it reminds me of the reasons why I’m here and grounds me,” says Griffiths. Sitting in an English class pursuing her undergraduate degree as an international studies major, she recalls the moment when everything clicked and she realized that what she truly wanted to do was teach English.
As a first generation college student, Griffiths explains how during her undergraduate years she was constantly working and that when it came time for her to get her master’s, she decided to try something different. “I took out a loan and went to the [United Kingdom (UK)],” says Griffiths. She completed her graduate degree at University of York and describes this as a perfect fit: being in a different educational system and finding a new place that feels like home.
Outside of school, Griffiths enjoys spending time with her two daughters and traveling. Some of her favorite destinations are the UK, which holds a special place in her heart, and Italy, where she feels connected to her roots. One of her travel bucket list destinations is Morocco.
“During the whole pandemic I got out a lot and hiked every weekend. I just got into nature as much as I possibly could,” says Griffiths. She went on to explain that this was an activity she continued during her free time. Though she will camp, Griffiths prefers simply being in the forest or being by water—rivers, lakes, ocean.
Griffiths advises students by saying, “don’t get too wrapped up in the small stuff, at the end of the day school is going to be in the past. […] The cliquey stuff doesn’t matter. Just be authentic. Be yourself.” She sums it up to say, “live your life the way that you want to, not by what someone else wants.”
Keixa Bridges started in a student success advocate role before switching into the school counselor position last March. This year, Bridges is a school counselor, assistant volleyball coach, and the staff advisor for the FHS Black Student Union. When describing her move to FHS, Bridges said, “I have a lot of respect for Chris Frazier. It was really important for me as a Black professional to work under Black leadership.” During graduate school at Lewis and Clark, Bridges spent two years at Sunnyside Environmental School. After she left Sunnyside, she worked in the Reynolds School District, but explained that she had always had a goal of working at FHS. This year’s seniors (Class of 2023) were one of the first grades Bridges worked with at Sunnyside and she describes seeing them in the halls this year as coming full circle.
She describes relationships with her students as invaluable, adding that her favorite part of her job is “watching students find empowerment in themselves and in their identities, and discover their passions. Supporting them through the good and the bad.”
Bridges explained that she had a negative experience with her high school volleyball coach and wants to help shape a positive experience for young players. “As a counselor, you’re a part of so many things. And oftentimes those things are really heavy and the guidance you’re giving is just different,” explains Bridges.
Outside of the FHS walls, Bridges likes to spend time with her friends and her partner. Additionally, she likes to go camping, practice yoga, spend time with her dog, and travel. Travel is a big part of Bridges’ life. Currently she is working on planning a student trip to Spain: Barcelona, Madrid and the Basque Country. Bridges’ family immigrated from the Basque Country and she explained that she is looking forward to potentially going back for the first time in over 15 years. When she was younger, she traveled to Spain, France, and Bolivia. “We spent a month in Bolivia when I was in eighth grade. That was definitely an impactful trip, to be in a country that truly feels like another world and kind of watching the experiences of class division and poverty,” she continued, adding, “Being in such an ancient place was really eye opening to me at 14.”
Bridges explains high school as a time to try new things and step outside of people’s perceptions of you. As a high school student, Bridges experienced a lot of loss: “there [were] five people in the class before me that passed away […] I really think that stays with me a lot and treating the people you’re in school with, even in a big school like Franklin, [treating those with] with kindness and love […] is important because everyone has their own struggles and time is precious,” says Bridges.
Krystal Toderick started at FHS this fall as a school counselor in addition to being part of the equity committee and part of the AVID site council. She is an expressive, calm, organized, and caring individual. She has been a school counselor for the past six years; prior to FHS she worked at West Linn High School for three years and Clackamas High School for two years. “It’s always been my dream to work as a counselor in the community I live in,” says Toderick. “Working in Clackamas, I felt always a little disconnected because [students] were like, you know where that store is, or did you hear about that thing that happened? And it’s like, nope [because I didn’t live near there].”
Prior to being a school counselor, Toderick taught Spanish in a high school setting and explained that she did not enjoy it. “I’m pretty introverted and the amount of attention that was on me, was just exhausting, but I really loved students,” says Toderick. “ I really loved being in education.” She explained that what made her a good teacher was her ability to build relationships with students. Toderick explains the switch to counseling as something that just made sense.
The best part of working in a high school setting, as described by Toderick, is learning from teenagers. “They have so much wisdom. […]. Young people really have some awesome ideas and are really hopeful.” She explains that she finds most joy supporting students in the same areas she struggled with in high school. “I’m the daughter of an immigrant. I’m a first generation college student. I’m bilingual. I really want to emphasize working with students who share those identities,” she says.
Outside of FHS, Toderick spends her time practicing yoga, a new activity since the pandemic, playing and watching soccer, and cooking. Currently, Toderick is learning how to make bao buns.
“Listen to your gut or your body […] I think your gut is telling you something’s off. […] If your heart’s not really in it, I just don’t think it’s as fulfilling and successful,” Toderick advises students.
Quan Nguyen began at FHS as one of our school social workers, but transitioned last spring to a school counselor role. Due to personal circumstances, I was unable to contact Nguyen before the publishing date for this article.
Griffiths, Bridges, Toderick, and Nguyen are all student supports and advocates who agree that their doors are always open. Whether you’re needing academic, social, or emotional support, these are all resources that any student can access. From students to parents or caregivers, these FHS staff members are here to support students to be as successful as possible while in high school and beyond.