Mary Mabins, Pensacola State College
Sonja McCall-Strehlow likes to refer to herself as “a girl from Century, Florida.”
However, McCall-Strehlow is so much more. A business entrepreneur, coordinator for Pensacola State College’s massage therapy program and facial specialty program, a champion for her students, and most recently, the 2020 SkillsUSA Region 1 Adviser of the Year.
“I am very honored to receive this acknowledgment,” said McCall-Strehlow, who has been a part of the PSC family for more than 19 years. “I felt honored to even be nominated. My students are my No. 1 priority. And I have worked hard for my students to be able to compete. I have a competitive spirit and put a lot of work into wanting to see my students succeed.”
McCall-Strehlow’s commitment to her students is evident.
In 2018, one of her students – Katherine Schweitzer – won gold in the customer service category at the National SkillsUSA Conference held annually in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Katie was so impressive. She was offered a job on the spot by Chick-Fil-A making $70,000 a year,” McCall-Strehlow recalls with a smile.
A SkillsUSA adviser since 2007, McCall-Strehlow has taught Facial Specialty students to gold medals at the SkillsUSA Florida State Leadership and Skills Conference and to competition at the national level twice.
McCall-Strehlow’s experience in her areas of expertise goes far beyond the classroom setting. She has been a massage therapist for more than 37 years – even owning her salon and spa; and has been a facial specialist for more than 16 years.
She began her career at Pensacola State began as an adjunct instructor in 2001 and rose to be the program coordinator in 2007 and full professor in Fall 2018.
“I’ve been successful, and I know that my students can be successful too,” McCall-Strehlow said, adding she started as a chiropractor’s assistant at age 18 doing massage therapy and found her passion in working and helping others recover from injuries and or pain.
“I’ve always had a nurturing spirit and it was that chiropractor who paid my way through school,” she added.
While attending the Florida Therapeutic Massage School in Pensacola, McCall-Strehlow met her lifelong mentor – Geraldine Vauigard.
“I credit Miss Geraldine with me becoming a teacher,” McCall-Strehlow admits. “… I love what I do – so many people are not excited to go to work but it is a passion for me.”
McCall-Strehlow and her husband, Les, have two children. Lillie, 16, is a dual enrollee on the PSC Milton campus and a student at Central High School. Their son, Seth, 31, is a disabled veteran who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan. The family lives in Milton.