Celest Ngeve, 38, director of Rutland Academy, sits for a portrait in her office at Rutland Academy on Nov. 5, 2019 in Athens, Georgia. Ngeve, an Athens native, recently published a new book: “Calming the Chaos”. (Photo/Julian Alexander)

As an educator, therapist, life coach, motivational speaker, poet and author, Celest Ngeve wears a multitude of hats. With each one she continues to strive toward a singular goal — to help people. 

Ngeve became the director of Rutland Academy in 2007, a school that specializes in serving students with emotional and behavioral disorders that require therapeutic intervention. In her new book, “Calming the Chaos(Who Heals the Healer),” which was released on October 26, 2019, Ngeve discusses ways in which care providers can take care of themselves amid the difficulty of pouring all of their energy into other people.

Lemuel LaRoche, author and founder of local nonprofit Chess and Community, is a good friend of Ngeve’s and has known her for about 15 years.

“To see somebody that’s doing this, well it’s inspiring and it motivates me,” LaRoche said. “I don’t know where she finds time to come out with a new book and still do all the stuff that she’s doing.”

Ngeve discovered her love for helping people at Clarke Middle School after becoming a peer mediator. Through this program Ngeve was able to help her fellow students resolve conflicts, and felt like she was able to find her calling. 

After becoming a peer mediator, Ngeve continued to pursue similar opportunities and eventually found her niche as a therapist. As a therapist, Ngeve is able to speak to a wide range of clientele, from children to teens with emotional behavior challenges, families, individuals who were mandated by a court to attend therapy sessions and domestic violence offenders.

While Ngeve was initially wary about working with domestic violence offenders since she didn’t know how receptive they’d be to therapy, she now considers them some of her favorite clients to work with.  

“It’s not always what you think it is,” Ngeve said. “I really had to just look at them as people and I wanted to know what their story was.” 

Ngeve said working with this population helped her open her mind and emphasized how important it was for her to enter the situation without bias in order to “do no harm,” one of the first rules of therapy.

Education strategies 

Ngeve transitioned from a therapist to educator in 2007 because she felt she could be more effective in teaching. Ngeve is now the director of Rutland Academy, a school that specializes in serving students with emotional and behavioral disorders that require therapeutic intervention. 

“You know the beautiful thing about being in special education is you really get to do therapy and education together,” Ngeve said. “It’s always rewarding and you’re always learning something different.”

According to the school’s website, Rutland strives to “empower students to become academically, behaviorally and socially successful” which are ideals Ngeve herself works to uphold. Ngeve teaches her students different strategies such as walks and meditation to help them handle their emotions with the end goal of transitioning them back to their original school.

“It’s not an alternative school, it’s not a consequence. It’s a continuum of support for the districts we serve,”  Ngeve said. “[Rutland is] really helping kiddos understand that, ‘ I see you, I’m not giving up.’”

Taking care of the caretaker

While love, loss and her life are some of Ngeve’s main topics of interest, she enjoys writing about “everything.” 

“I write a lot about self care, a lot about empowerment, respect, loving yourself, a lot about evolving because we evolve so much,” Ngeve said. “Who we are today is not who we were a year ago and it’s not who we’re going to be five years from today.”

In Ngeve’s new book, she highlights the ways people in healing professions “teach other people how to take care of themselves” without implementing what they preach in their own lives. Getting more sleep and learning how to say “no” are just two methods of self care she recommends.   

To Ngeve, self care has to be a “vital” role in everyone’s life. Many people claim they don’t have the time for self care but she said “you really don’t have the time not to”.

“As adults we try to pour from empty cups,” Ngeve said. “I’m just gonna give, give, give and then after a while you’re exhausted because your cup is empty.” 

Eugene Willis, an information technology professional and emcee known as Blacknerdninja, has known Ngeve for over 20 years. When he first heard what she taught about self esteem and empowerment he didn’t quite understand it, but after discussing it more with Ngeve he began to want to study and learn about the practices essential for a healthy mental state. Willis believes that in order for a person to receive and act on self care or mental health, they must be in the right place. 

For Ngeve, the ability to positively impact the way someone thinks about themselves.

“We all want to be validated and appreciated and loved,” Ngeve said. 


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