Christina Mansour smiling
Christina Mansour (Estafanous,) MAEd ’07, sits at her desk at Buena Park High School (BPHS), helping a sophomore student who has walked in without an appointment and just needs someone to talk to about an issue in class. Mansour patiently provides kindhearted feedback, taking the time out of her busy day to listen to the student’s needs, even though she has another appointment that she now must push back a few minutes. “I love my job. The high schoolers I work with can be very challenging sometimes, but I love them,” she said. “I enjoy having conversations with kids about their futures and what’s going on in their lives. I truly get to know them over the years they’re here.”

Mansour knew she wanted to be a teacher from a young age. She had some influential teachers who made a big impact in her life and realized she wanted to do the same, to help kids learn and grow. After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in math and a single subject teaching credential, she began teaching math at West Covina High School (WCHS) in 2001. “Math has always come naturally to me. I know most kids don’t feel the same way, so I really tried to make it where you may not love math, but you will love coming to my class, more because of the teacher-student connection,” Mansour said. “I knew if they liked the atmosphere I created for them, they would learn and would get a good grade which they had to earn.” Mansour especially loved playing math games to review before tests with her kids which helped make math fun and not daunting.

Mansour had been teaching for a few years when she observed a counselor working with students in her class. “I thought I would like to do that too, so I talked with her and she told me about APU’s educational counseling program,” she said. Mansour visited campus soon after, met with faculty, and quickly enrolled in the program. “I really loved going to APU. It was so different from my experience at a big state school during undergrad,” she said. “The service and accessibility was phenomenal. I wish I had that during undergrad, but I was very glad to have it for grad school.”

Mansour made many friends in her classes that she’s still in touch with. She enjoyed being in a small cohort where she took classes with the same people and grew closer to them each semester. Mansour loved learning about how to serve students and how to integrate her faith in her job in classes with Michelle Cox, PhD, and Leah Leonard, LMFT.

“I work in a public school, so I can’t always talk about my faith, but if a student brings up their own faith, then of course I’ll discuss it with them,” Mansour said. “I’ve found that middle ground of loving everyone because that’s what Christ calls us to do.”

Although Mansour graduated with her MAEd in Educational Counseling in 2007, she chose to stay in the classroom for another decade because of her love for teaching. However, a couple of years after switching schools from WCHS to BPHS in 2013, she received the opportunity to begin counseling while still teaching, splitting her time in half for both areas. After two years of doing both jobs, a full-time counseling position opened and she left the classroom. As a counselor, Mansour’s day-to-day involves many different responsibilities. “No two days look the same,” she said. “One day I might be doing IEPs (Individual Education Plans) all day. The next day I’ll be doing 504 meetings (plans to meet the needs of students with disabilities), behavioral intervention plans with the counseling team, and presenting in classrooms. And of course I’ll meet with students whenever they request to see me or just come in here to talk because they need help.”

Mansour’s school has a large percentage of first generation students, so she often meets with parents who have questions about how to get their kids into college. She also plans the schedules of the more than 450 students she serves, ensuring they get the right classes to graduate on time. Mansour loves when students decide to go to four-year colleges even though they may have never dreamed that was possible when they began high school.

“My favorite part of my job is watching kids grow from the time they enter as freshmen to their senior year,” she said. “You see them mature physically, growing from scrawny kids into young adults, and socially transform from someone who may struggle socially as a 9th grader to a flourishing 12th grader who is ready to take on the world. Watching them cross the graduation stage is incredibly rewarding.”

Mansour runs an intern program for students studying to become educational counselors. Over the past four years, she has had at least four interns from APU each year. Students in the MAEd program must complete 800 hours with a counselor at two different levels. “I love working with APU interns. They’re so great and are very well prepared,” Mansour said. “APU students bring the love of Christianity. They love the kids like they’re their own and they come to serve. That’s very important to me.” Mansour’s interns participate in the same meetings, practice one-on-one counseling with a caseload of students, and help run the school’s wellness center.

The wellness center is Mansour’s top achievement. She pleaded for one for years, and when the school got a grant in 2021, her prayers were answered. BPHS became the first school in the district to have one. The wellness center provides a place where students can come to reset themselves when they feel emotionally heightened or overwhelmed before going to or returning to class. Students can meet with interns, counselors, the school’s mental health specialist, a licensed therapist and contracted partner organizations who conduct restorative circles, meditation, and substance abuse intervention. The school also facilitates several workshops and small groups in the center each semester.

“The wellness center has changed the way we do our jobs and freed us up to do so many things and offer different services for the kids,” Mansour said. “It has literally saved students’ lives.”

Mansour loves being an educational counselor because it allows her to live out her calling, serving kids and meeting their needs to make sure they are taken care of and able to graduate and move on to the next phase of life. “Counseling directly relates to my faith because Christ called us to serve others. I’m living my faith out every day,” she said. Outside of work, Mansour loves spending time with her husband, Bassem, and her two sons, David (11-years-old) and Andrew (9-years-old). “I love my boys. We are very big about doing everything as a family. It’s really nice to come home to my family after long days of serving the kids at school.”