Counselor’s passions out of this world
‘Star Wars,’ ‘Stargate-SG1’ fuel interest for special education cooperative worker
This holiday season in a home not so far away, M&M's candies dressed as "Star Wars" characters adorn a 4-foot-tall artificial Christmas tree no more than six inches across.
It's not your typical festive decoration, but most Leavenworth living rooms don't sport an autographed photo from the man tucked inside R2-D2's robot shell, either. Angie Mueller's passion for science fiction covers the walls and shelves of the Lansing High School psychologist's home.
And it's not just "Star Wars." She loves the "Stargate" series too.
In fact, she wears that passion on her sleeves.
Modeling a jagged-edged dress pieced together in ragged patches of pastel, Mueller's showing off the only costume she's ever sewn.
A wig filled with artificial foliage rests atop her head.
"This is my Nox," said Mueller, referring to a peaceful race of characters from the television series "Stargate-SG1."
The getup netted Mueller second place during a "Stargate" fan convention this summer in Chicago.
"I had wanted to make costumes, but never really had the resources to figure out how to do things," said Mueller, who hadn't sewn a stitch in 20 years. "Some of the people in my 'Star Wars' group do costuming, so that gave me some people to go to."
As an employee of the Leavenworth County Special Education Cooperative, Mueller spends half the workweek counseling students at LHS and the other half at David Brewer Elementary in Leavenworth.
Sometimes her interest in science fiction launches conversations with her students.
"A lot of the younger boys, especially, are into 'Star Wars.' When they start talking about it and I start talking about things, they're like, 'But you're a girl. Girls aren't supposed to like 'Star Wars,'" Mueller said.
But science fiction offers some fans more than simple entertainment, she added.
"In a way, it can be an escape, but at the same time, 'Stargate,' being a series and into its 10th season now, they've dealt with a lot of real-life issues - like how we should handle prisoners of war," she said.
Mueller attended her first "Star Wars" convention in Indianapolis in April 2005 and then joined the Heart of the Alliance group, a Kansas City chapter of a national group for "Star Wars" fans.
It hasn't always been easy to quench Mueller's thirst for all things sci-fi.
Growing up in the tiny town of Humboldt in southeast Kansas, Mueller grew impatient waiting for the "Star Wars" movies to hit her local theater.
"I had to beg my parents to bring me to Kansas City to watch 'Return of the Jedi' the weekend it came out. We would get movies about two weeks late," she said. "I told them, 'But I've got to know if Darth Vader is really Luke's father. Please, please, please!'"
Mueller's favorite piece in her collection - a Darth Vader figurine she bought during the excursion - reminds her of how her parents gave in to the request.
At times, Mueller taps into her training in psychology to analyze the characters. She cited "Star Wars" character Anakin Skywalker's shift to "the dark side," which beget the evil Darth Vader, as an example.
Before she moved to Leavenworth in 1999, Mueller practiced clinical psychology for five years in Chanute.
"With the clinical settings, it's pretty intense, and I got burnt out pretty quickly. I decided I wanted a change, but still wanted to work with children in some capacity," she said.
Mueller has also logged experience working with children in after-school programs and in the juvenile justice system.
After working as a paraprofessional in the Leavenworth and Lansing schools for a year and a half, Mueller made the transition to school psychologist this fall.
She said working with high-schoolers at LHS has been rewarding.
"I like both age groups, but here, I get to do a little more counseling. The kids are more aware of their motivations for behaviors and the thinking behind the things they do and where they need help education-wise. It's exciting to help them plan for their future," she said.
Mueller's other interests include visiting family members in southeast Kansas and volunteering at the Leavenworth Animal Welfare Society.
She shares her home with two miniature schnauzers, Jasmine and Joey.