Meet the Wakefield Counseling Staff

Follow us on Twitter @WakeCounselors


Lynette McCracken
Director of Counseling Services

Lynette McCracken studied Psychology and Religion at The College of William and Mary before going on to earn her MSW at The Catholic University of America. For the first half of her career, she worked as an LCSW in the substance abuse intervention and treatment field.  After taking time off to be with her children, Lynette earned a post-master’s degree in School Counseling from George Mason University.

She spent 15 years as a counselor at Yorktown High School before coming to Wakefield in 2015. A life-long Arlingtonian, Lynette spends her free time reading, knitting and taking care of her two dogs.

“The last of human freedoms—the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” — Viktor E. Frankl

Analia Almada

Analia Almada earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, before moving to the United States. Analia went on to obtain a Post Master’s Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy from Virginia Tech, and later her School Counseling Certification from George Mason University.  Analia has worked at the Language Registration Center, the Arlington Career Center, Thomas Jefferson Middle School, and Kenmore Middle School, before coming over to Wakefield in 2010.  Analia enjoys working with students from different backgrounds and heritages and learning about their personal experiences.

“Study hard, and keep studying! No matter what obstacles you face, they can be overcome – Education is the most important possession you can have.”

Kelly Carruthers

Kelly Carruthers studied Secondary Education: Spanish and minored in International Studies at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. She continued her studies at California State University, Los Angeles for a Master’s of Science in School Counseling, Option: School Counseling and Principalship. Prior to joining Wakefield High School’s Counseling Department in 2001, she taught Spanish for three years and was a school counselor for three years at John Burrough High School in Burbank, CA. Away from Wakefield, Kelly assists in managing an agricultural business.  She is the proud owner of two Belgian Sheepdogs who compete in show rings.

 “You must have a balance between academic rigor and other areas in your personal life. Too much of one thing distorts your perspectives.”  — as told to me by one of my mentors.

Luis Contreras

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Luis Contreras received both his Bachelors and Master’s degree from George Mason University. He studied Global Affairs and Business as an undergraduate before returning to Mason to earn his Masters in Counseling and Development. Luis comes to the Wakefield staff with a variety of previous counseling experience, which include serving as a residential youth counselor and elementary behavior support specialist. Luis has been certified as a Qualified Mental Health Professional working with children and adolescents. Luis loves spending time with his wife, Vanessa, exercising, reading, drinking iced coffee and playing with his dog Maddy.


“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Veronica Covarrubias

Veronica Covarrubias earned her BA in Government and International Politics and her M.Ed in Counseling and Development at George Mason University (GMU). Veronica has worked at Wakefield since 2006, prior to Wakefield she was the Assistant Director at GMU/Early Identification Program. Veronica is also a proud graduate of Arlington Public Schools. Outside of Wakefield, Veronica has served on the Executive Board of Latinas Leading Tomorrow for the past few years and was a member of their advisory board.

“Believe you can and you’re half way there.”     Theodore Roosevelt

John Clisham
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John Clisham earned his BA in Political Science at Penn State University. He also received his MA.Ed in School Counseling and an Honorary Degree from George Washington University. John has been working at Wakefield since 1990, first working as a substitute counselor and then taking on a full-time position. Before beginning at Wakefield John was elected Delegate to the 1984 Democratic National Convention representing former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.

In the 10th grade Sister Joan Daniel, my Religion teacher, said to me: “John don’t let anyone tell you what to think or who to be, be yourself.”

Collette Julian

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Collette Julian earned her BA in Psychology in Ohio from Miami University and her Masters in School Counseling from Marymount University. Prior to working at Wakefield, Collette was a high school counselor in Fairfax County for 4 years and recently worked as the Pathway to the Baccalaureate Counselor for Northern Virginia Community College in Arlington County. In her free time, Collette enjoys traveling, working out and being with friends.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”Vivian Green 

Ivan Lopez


Ivan Lopez earned both his BS in Criminal Justice and Master’s in Counseling at Virginia Commonwealth University. Ivan is a proud graduate of Wakefield High School (Class of 2006) and also interned as a counselor at Wakefield. Prior to joining the Wakefield Counseling Staff, Ivan was a counselor at Yorktown High School for three years and also served as a substitute counselor at McKinley Elementary School. In his free time, Ivan enjoys working out, kickboxing, being with friends/family, and traveling.

Find out who you are and be that person. That’s what your soul was put on this earth to be. Find that truth, be that truth and everything else will come.” –Ellen DeGeneres

Renita Mathis
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Renita Mathis earned her BS in Communications from East Carolina University and her MA in Public Administration from Troy University. After working as Wakefield’s Testing Coordinator for 12 years, Renita decided it was time for a change and received her Masters in Education and Human Development in School Counseling from George Washington University in May 2015 and started as a counselor that Fall. She is super excited to be part of the Wakefield counseling team.

“Do your best now to prevent regrets later.”

Alfred Reid
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After earning his BS at Hampton University and his MA at George Washington University, Alfred Reid worked at Thomas Jefferson middle school. After eight years at TJ, Alfred joined the Wakefield team and has been a part of the counseling staff since 2000. Despite his lively personality, Alfred tends to be more conservative when it comes to dealing with other people’s children.

“Hope is not a strategy.”

Allison Menchel


Allie Menchel studied Psychology at Dickinson College and later earned her Master’s in Counseling at Marymount University. Prior to earning her graduate degree, Allie worked at the Kennedy Krieger School in Rockvillle, MD and then worked at Washington-Lee High School for three years as an Instructional Assistant in the Asperger’s Program. Allie interned and subbed as a school counselor at Wakefield the year before she joined the Wakefield Counseling Staff in 2016. Outside of the school day, you can find Allie leading the Yoga Warriors Club at Wakefield. In her spare time, she enjoys teaching yoga, being active outdoors, and spending time with her friends and family.

“If you never try you’ll never know.”

Joe Spencer
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Joe Spencer studied at the University of Oregon where he earned his BS in Sociology and Political Science. He later went on to earn his MA in Counseling from The George Washington University. Before moving east, Joe worked for Salem Public Schools in Salem, Oregon for nine years. He then spent one year as a Special Needs Counselor at School Without Walls High School in Washington, DC. In 2004 he moved across the river to Arlington and has been at Wakefield ever since.

Twitter: @MrSpencer_WHS

“Nothing ever goes perfectly, it just goes.” — Lynn Moran

Alvin Truesdale

Alvin Truesdale received his MA in School Counseling and Human Development from George Washington University. He has been working in APS for the last eight years. Alvin is also a fan of roller coasters.

“Learn from those who came before us and start a new path for those who will come after us.”

Student Services Staff

Alan Beitler
Minority Achievement Coordinator

Before receiving his MSW from Virginia Commonwealth University, Alan Beitler earned his MA in Peace Studies from Associated Mennonite Seminaries and his BA in Sociology and Social Work from Bluffton College. He has been a member of the Wakefield staff since 1995, first working as the school Social Worker then moving on to his current position as the Minority Achievement Coordinator. When given the chance he enjoys attempting to play golf.

“If you want to achieve greatness, what is required? Luck? Talent? Maybe. But greatness always requires hard work, dedication, sacrifice. There is no other way.”

Charlene Giles               School Social Worker


Charlene Giles earned her BS in Special Education from Virginia State University and her MSW at Howard University.  She has worked as the School Social worker at Wakefield since 2005.  Charlene recently earned her M.Ed. in Education Leadership from George Mason University.  In her spare time, she enjoys hanging out with her family.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”Maya Angelou

Leigh Serroka                   School Social Worker


Leigh Serroka earned her BS in Human Development at Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!) and continued her education at George Mason University where she received her MSW. Leigh worked as a social work intern and a substitute teacher in Fairfax County before coming to Wakefield. In her free time, you can spot Leigh running in Arlington and spending time with family and friends.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.” – Dr. Seuss

Barbara Holtz
School Psychologist

Barbara Holtz earned her BA in Special Education from Boston College and her Ph.D in Clinical Psychology from George Mason University. Barbara works as the School Psychologist and has been working in Arlington Public Schools since 1993. On her off days, Barbara works in her garden, always covered head to toe in mosquito netting to ward off insect attacks.

“Trust your gut.”

Greg Myers

Greg Myers earned his MA in School Psychology from George Mason University after earning his BA in Psychology from the University of Virginia.  Greg has been loving Wakefield since starting here in 2016. Before coming to Wakefield, he spent 10 years working in Fairfax County as a school psychologist at all levels (elementary, middle, and high).  In his spare time, Greg loves traveling, rolling on the floor with his super cute toddler, doing anything outdoors, and failing happily at golf.

“Work hard and be nice to people.”

 Martín Orjales

Communities in School Coordinator


Laurie Artman
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Laurie Artman earned B.As in Elementary Education and Psychology from Christopher Newport College and an M.Ed. in School Counseling from the College of William & Mary.  In over 20 years as an Educator Laurie has served as an Elementary Classroom Teacher, High School Counselor, Middle School Counselor and College and Career Readiness Coordinator.  She is excited to take on her new role as Testing Coordinator for Wakefield.  A few of Laurie’s favorite pastimes are traveling, cooking and spending time with family and friends, including her two feisty (but sweet) Chihuahuas.

“If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right!” – Henry Ford

Shaheed Patterson
School Attendance Specialist
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After receiving his BA in Communications from Marymount University and his Masters in Social Work from Howard University, Shaheed started as a Social Work intern at Wakefield High School in 2007. The following year Shaheed attained the position of Attendance Specialist and has been working at Wakefield ever since. Although Shaheed was born and bred in New England, he is a Dallas Cowboys fan and roots for both the New York Knicks and the Boston Red Sox.

I would advise high school students to think of the questions: “How do I want to live when I’m an adult? What do I want to be when I’m an adult?”

Edgardo Santos
Substance Abuse Counselor

Edgardo Santos earned his ME.d in Health Education at the University of Arizona. He then went on to work as both a Health Therapist and Substance Abuse Counselor at St. Elizabeth Hospital before coming to work in Arlington Public Schools as a Substance Abuse Counselor in 1993.

“Experimentation is very risky; the first time can be the last time.”

Counseling Support

LaRenda Bigsby


Larenda earned her Bachelors of Science from Virginia State University in 2008.

She’s working on her Masters of Science in Management from Strayer University.

Prior to coming to Arlington Public Schools, she worked for District of Columbia Public Schools

.She’s been with Arlington Public Schools since 2010. 

In her free time, she loves spending time with family and friends.

“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.”

Maria Posas
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 Maria Posas earned her bilingual secretary degree in El Salvador. Her first job in Virginia was an interpreter in Fairfax Hospital, where she worked with children who were about to have surgery. Since 1995 Maria has been a part of Arlington Public School. She has been at Wakefield since 2001 and three of her children are Wakefield Warriors. When Maria is not working at Wakefield she is taking care of her children and grandchildren. In her free time, she enjoys: reading and learning Latin.

“Life is short, enjoy each day”

Sonja Schulken

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Sonja Schulken grew up in Northern California where she earned a BA in Communications

from Chico State University. She earned her MA from Georgetown University.

Before coming to Wakefield, Sonja worked as a business manager in DC Public Schools

and before that, covered national and local news as a broadcast journalist.

Sonja spends her spare time avoiding gardening, volunteering at the

National Gallery of Art, reading, and binge watching cheesy shows with her teenage daughters.

“Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.” – Max Planck

Mary Thacker

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Mary Thacker is a Wakefield alumnus and has been working at Wakefield for over 25 years.

Mary attended Northern Virginia Community College. Mary also has an adventurous side.

She was a part of the first all girls’ soccer league in Northern Virginia and has even snorkeled with a five foot barracuda.

“You never know what someone may be going through in their life. Treat others as you’d like to be treated.”

JoAnn Weiss

JoAnn earned her Bachelors of Science from George Washington University and

in 2014 earned her Master of Education Counseling and Development from

George Mason University. She has been in Arlington Public Schools since 2007

and Wakefield since 2009, but prior to that served as vice president at an association

management company.

Over the years JoAnn has been an avid traveler and has visited all 50 U.S. states!

“Travel while you’re young. Don’t worry about the money, Just go! When you are older,

it’s not as easy to travel. People put off experiencing adventures, but there’s no guarantee

you’ll be able to do things later.”

Bilingual Family Liaisons

Eddy Guerrero



I was born in Quito, Ecuador and I am married to Yanira who was born in El Salvador.

I enjoy with my beloved wife in volunteer work on weekends in the community of Springfield

where we live. Today, thanks to APS I have the privilege and satisfaction of

working in this amazing school where the dedication and spirit of helping

students and families is perceived.

“The difficulties of life are intended to make us better, not bitter”  Anonymous

Martha Heredia

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 Martha Heredia is one of the three Bilingual Family Resource Assistants in

Wakefield High School.She earned her Bachelors in Visual Arts from the college

Escuela Superior Para Maestros Simón Bolívar in La Paz, Bolivia. After graduation,

Mrs. Heredia worked in the high schools throughout La Paz as an

Art & History Teacher for three years. Martha joined APS in 2007 working as a Bilingual

Family Resource Assistant at Oakridge Elementary School.  Before joining the APS system,

Mrs. Heredia worked in the FLES Program in Fairfax County as a Spanish teacher.

Martha loves to be part of Wakefield community. She values and respects the opportunities

that high schools in this country offer to the students.

When she’s not spending time with her husband and children, she likes to plant herbs

and uses them when she cooks. She admires Mr. Jaime Escalante, a

highly regarded and inspiring Bolivian educator, and tries to follow his example.

Ganas =desire + determination + discipline and that’s all we need to learn!”As always, she wishes you …

“¡Tenga un bonito día!”  (have a beautiful day!)

Carlos Murillo


Carlos G. Murillo, was born in Arequipa, Peru in 1978.  At the age of three he moved to

Jalizco, Mexico,where he lived for eight years. 

At the age of eleven, his family decided to move to the United States. 

They have lived in Arlington, VA ever since.   He attended Patrick Henry Elementary,

Thomas Jefferson Middle School and is a 1997 graduate of Wakefield High School.

He was happy to return.   He always wanted to be an architect since he was very young.

His dad is an architect; He grew up learning to appreciate architecture,

buildings and how architecture influences our culture. In addition to Wakefield,

he has worked at McKinley Elementary School as a Bilingual Parent Liaison for the past

14 years. He has extensive experience working with the Latino community.

He also worked in the Extended Day Program for 17 years,

where he realized that he has a gift to work with children,

He loves working with and having a positive influence on the lives of children

and being a positive role model. This makes him feel good both spiritually and mentally.