Clinical Director and Founder
L.C.S.W. Licensed Clinical Social Work - State of Montana M.S.W. Clinical Social Work - University of Illinois at Chicago B.A. Art - Plastic and Graphic Arts University of Illinois at Chicago
“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” - Anne Frank
Phone: (406) 758-8112
Where did you grow up? I grew up on the south side of Chicago. When I was a kid, my friends and I would endlessly play “school” with our dolls, ride bikes, climb trees, roller skate (the kind with a key) and watch Bozo’s Circus and The Three Stooges. It was always a magical moment when the scene turned from black and white into “living” color during the annual television airing of the Wizard of Oz, and we were totally awestruck watching the Beatles U.S. debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. We enjoyed double feature matinees at the Avalon Theater, and taking bus rides to spend the day at the Museum of Science and Industry or downtown in the Loop.
Tell us about your family. I am the youngest of three children, all girls. All four of my grandparents came to the U.S. through Ellis Island, my mom’s parents from Sweden and my dad’s parents from Slovenia. Our family lived in Chicago, on the Southside (White Sox, Vienna hot dogs, and thin crust pizza). Though my parents have been gone now for many years, I still have relatives in the Chicago area. I met my husband-to-be Rick Johnson at my first job out of graduate school, when we both worked for a youth agency in Woodstock, IL. We have been married now for 30 years and have two daughters in their 20’s. Our eldest is married, lives nearby in Kalispell, and is about to have our second grandchild. Our younger daughter Rachel is a special needs young adult with autism, and lives happily at home with us.
Share something about yourself that might surprise people. I was once in a shooting in my high school. Two rival gangs started fighting each other in the cafeteria with chains and shotguns (with pellets, not bullets, so no one killed ) and then all the lights in the school went out. This was a very old Chicago public school that didn’t have the glass and natural light of newer buildings. Everyone was screaming and running and pushing in every direction to get away, me included. I was a scrawny freshman that looked like the nerdy female character with bangs and glasses in the Scooby Doo cartoons with my big armload of books, and I bumped right into the big tall gang leader with a kerchief over the bottom part of his face like an old western outlaw and holding his gun up in the air while frantically trying to get out himself. I finally made it to study hall in the auditorium, and went back to doing homework as usual while watching a police detective with a dog sniffing among the curtains on the stage to see, I guess, if anyone was hiding there. There were no announcements from any school staff about what happened and/or why the police were now combing our school with dogs that day or any thereafter, and no notification was made to our parents. I don’t think that the idea of certain life experiences as potentially “traumatic” was a notion anyone had or thought to do anything about back then.
Briefly describe your work experience. I worked in graphic arts, accounting, and property management until I went to graduate school in social work in my late 20’s. As a clinical therapist, I have worked in newborn adoptions, outpatient and inpatient child, adolescent, adult and family therapy. Beginning in 2001, my husband Rick and I collaborated with our good friends co-founders Alex Habib and Mark Hostetter in designing and building of Summit Preparatory School, which opened its’ doors to students in Spring 2003.
If you could spend a week anywhere in the world, where would it be?It’s a toss between going to Italy to see all the wonderful art and architecture, and going with my daughter Rachel to watch baby sea turtles hatch and help protect them on their attempt to crawl across the beach and get into the ocean water for the very first time.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not working? Spending time playing and reading with our 4 year old granddaughter, anticipating the arrival this winter of grandchild number two, and spending time with my family and dog walking in the woods, canoeing, looking for rocks or shells along a river, lake or ocean shore, hiking in Glacier Park, a lot of reading, and watching sci-fi and mystery whodunits. We also do a lot with Special Olympics, as our younger daughter is a participant.
What draws you most to this type of work? I think it is the opportunity to help people find whatever light is in their own personal darkness, so to speak, in whatever small way I can be helpful to that end, feels personally fulfilling.