Claire Jacob-Zysman is a new addition to Academy of the Holy Names, and she arrives as a dual-threat: she’s AHN’s new School Counselor, and beginning in the fall, she’ll be teaching dance. 

I have been dancing since I was seven years old. I studied dance in college and moved on to dance professionally after college. During that time, I fell in love with teaching dance and spreading the joy, creativity, and discipline of dance to students. My dance teaching philosophy is that everyone is a dancer, and that dance can be used as a tool to build self-confidence, create connections, and be an outlet for self-expression. I use dance to empower the students to feel confident in their moving bodies and to express their emotions through the art of dance.” 

Mrs. Jacob Zysman graduated summa cum laude from the State University of New York at Buffalo with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance before completing her master’s in clinical mental health counseling at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She says she’s fortunate to be able to pursue both her passions. “My approach to being a school counselor and to being a dance teacher are very similar. I meet with students where they are, I get to know them, and I aim to help them to feel confident and empowered.” 

She says she was drawn to Holy Names because of its nurturing and supportive atmosphere that is focused on educating and empowering young women. “Holy Names offers a safe space for each student to be truly known and encouraged to be herself. Being an adolescent girl can be a difficult time, and I love that Holy Names is committed to girls’ education and female empowerment.” 

As a counselor, Mrs. Jacob-Zysman has conducted individual, group, and family therapy sessions with a diverse range of populations. She says a lot can happen between grades six through 12, and some of the biggest issues students deal with range from changing social dynamics between friends and peers, navigating gaining more independence, and learning how to make good choices. She wants students to know her door is always open to help them deal with these issues on good days, bad days, and everything in between. 

Students often face peer pressure, academic stress, and pressures from social media.  All of this can lead to anxiety and depression.  I can help them establish coping skills to help them to regulate their emotions when things feel overwhelming. I can also guide students to learn how to communicate better with peers, teachers, and family. I aim to help them to feel empowered and confident and start the lifelong habit of treating themselves with kindness and care.” 

Mrs. Jacob-Zysman is excited to be part of the AHN community and is looking forward to getting to know each student and learning how to support them in reaching their goals. She also can’t wait to start dance classes, where students will be learning modern and ballet dance techniques. They will also learn choreography and how to work together as an ensemble. “I hope the students take away a love of dance and self-expression, a joy for moving their bodies through space, and an increased sense of overall wellness.” 

She says school is a place where adolescents spend a great deal of their time, and it is a time when they begin to form what type of person they are going to be. “It is an honor to be a part of this process with the students and to help them find their voice and create the future they desire.”