When she first arrived at The Guild for Human Services as a teaching assistant in 1999, Sharon DiGrigoli-Couture did not expect to stay long. A certified guidance counselor (grades 5-12) with no experience in special education, she figured she might remain a year.

Instead, Sharon found the field of special education to be deeply fulfilling. She discovered a supportive, caring community at The Guild and eventually built an enviable 20-year career, culminating in being responsible for all educational programming and staffing at The Guild School for the last decade.

At the end of June, The Guild’s chief education officer will transition from full-time employment to a consulting capacity as her family moves back to her native Berkshires in Western Massachusetts.

“This is hard for me,” Sharon reflects. “I’ve grown up at The Guild, as an educator and as a person. It’s where I learned to be a teacher and spent my whole professional career. I owe a lot to this community.”

After joining The Guild as a teaching assistant, Sharon was named a special education teacher focused on language arts before serving as education coordinator for transition-aged classrooms. She became director of education in 2009 and was promoted to chief education officer two years ago.

In her two decades with The Guild, Sharon has taught more than 260 students, worked with nearly 100 school districts and mentored about 350 staff members. Along the way, she generously shared with her colleagues her deep knowledge of special education, fervent commitment to the students and strong ethical foundation.

“We wish Sharon the best as she takes some much-deserved time off to focus on her family and their new home,” Guild Chief Executive Officer Amy C. Sousa says. “For 20 years, Sharon has had a profound impact on both our students and our educators. We are fortunate that she has agreed to stay on as a consultant to provide training and support to The Guild’s education team.”

As a teacher in her early years at The Guild, Sharon derived great personal satisfaction from witnessing the growth of her students and helping them increase their level of independence. In particular, she recalls the pride of helping one student who had difficulty identifying words learn to read at the first-grade level. She also has fond memories of a class trip to Washington, D.C., that she fundraised for and helped organize.

When Sharon transitioned into an education management role, she came to miss the day-to-day interactions with the students, yet grew to appreciate the opportunity to influence teachers and make a difference in the lives of students in another way. Just as she learned from the students while a teacher, she learned from the teachers as a manager.

“I feel I’ve been privileged to have been able to learn from other educators and specialists,” Sharon says. “No amount of schooling can give you the education I’ve received from some of the people I’ve had the opportunity to work with. I learn from them each and every day.”

Most of all, she will miss the members of the unique Guild community – from educators to parents to residential staff – who share the common goal of helping the individuals that The Guild serves.

“When I think of the community, I think of everybody who is working for the betterment of the students and trying to improve the students’ lives,” she explains. “They come in every day and deal with some really challenging circumstances and continue to remain positive and focused on progress. It’s an amazing community.”