CLEARFIELD – A Clearfield woman consistently works to better her community through her vocation and her many pursuits.
Stephanie Tarbay is an elementary guidance counselor for the DuBois Area School District – a position she has held for seven years.
While a student at the University of Pittsburgh, Tarbay changed her major from pre-dentistry to counselor. She said she originally had hopes of becoming an orthodontist but changed her mind after receiving counseling to help her recover from a life disappointment.
“(My plans to be an orthodontist) changed when I had a little bump in the road and sought out counseling myself. I adored the counselor and thought maybe I would be better at something like that instead of being an orthodontist. In elementary school I remember my counselor doing lessons with my class and I thought that was cool. In high school my counselor helped me pick classes so I always kind of thought being a school counselor would be a fun job to help all students, not just ones that are struggling,”
Tarbay said a guidance counselor’s duties are varied but one thing is always at the core of her position –assisting others. “Being a school counselor, there are many different hats that you wear, but the main one is always being a helper. That’s why ultimately I chose to go into this field, because I’m able to be a helper,” she explained.
Working with students is very fulfilling for Tarbay. “I love working with the students at my job because every day is different. The good and the bad balance out and it is so rewarding to see you are making progress with a student who may be struggling with a variety of problems such as anxiety or tantrums. The kids light up my days and keep my job interesting. I get to be the warm and fuzzy person every day of my job and a cheerleader for all of my kids,” she said.
“It is so rewarding to see students’ strides and be one of the ones who can be a positive light and show unconditional love even when a student does not make the best choice. I tell my kids a lot that we can make bad choices, but it is how we move on and choose the next time that help us to grow,” she added.
Compassion for students plays a key role in Tarbay’s position. “Promoting kindness and empathy are big parts of my job, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I try to model kindness everyday through interactions with my co-workers and students. My kids come from all different backgrounds and it can be easy to judge a child from the negative behavior they may display, but I always like to dive deeper and show that child extra compassion and love because I know school may be their safe place,” she said.
In addition to working as a guidance counselor, Tarbay also volunteers as a member of the Lawrence Township Fire Co., Station 5. She said she became a firefighter after seeing the impact serving the community had on her husband James. “I was never really interested in fire service until my husband came along. He basically grew up in fire service and has served in many different roles within the Houtzdale Fire Co., even as chief. When he moved to Clearfield in 2017 he joined locally. I have been a member for almost three years.”
Tarbay said she and her husband enjoy working together on projects within the fire company. “We chair the membership committee as well as the fire prevention committee. I recently wrote a grant through the Clearfield County Charitable Foundation to help us fund a night where we gave out smoke alarms to those that did not have them. I am a member of the fire company because I truly enjoy helping the community whether through fire prevention or someone experiences a tragedy and we are there to help.”
Tarbay is also a member of Clearfield Borough Council –a position she actively sought after moving to Clearfield. “Before moving to Clearfield with my husband, I resided in Curwensville where I was a member of the school board. When I moved here I was looking for some way to become more involved in the community. I found that borough council had an opening on the ballot for the upcoming election. I want to help make our town a better place while using my voice to do so. I may not have the answer to everything, but I have listening ears and some ideas to get started,” she said.
While life can sometimes get hectic, Tarbay prioritizes her obligations but doesn’t forget to provide time for self care. “Overall, I try to live my life centered around helping others and being a productive member of my community. Everyone is busy, everyone has priorities, but giving back gives me a greater sense of satisfaction. My parents taught me to be a hard worker and give back to those in need, so that’s what I try to do. I want to ‘be the good’ as the phrase goes so that others can show kindness, compassion, and empathy toward those that may be struggling and give back to them. Helping others makes me happy. I always preach too that we need to take time for ourselves and use our self-care measures. That’s why in my spare time I enjoy going on walks, hitting the gym, and doing photography. Those activities help me to unwind from the things that I encounter on a daily basis. You definitely can’t pour from an empty cup,” Tarbay said.