National School Counselor Week, Feb. 3-7, 2020, recognizes the contributions of school counselors and highlights their role in the educational process for providing support to students who are experiencing personal or academic challenges, as well as helping students prepare for post-secondary success.
This year’s National School Counselor Week theme is “School Counselors: Helping Build Better Humans.”
This theme resonates with PVSchools middle and high school counselors. Koni Withers, a lead counselor, explains, “As school counselors, we try to find something that inspires students to make good choices in all areas of their lives, but when mistakes happen, they need to learn that there are consequences.”
“We try to adjust mindsets to empower students through knowledge by providing them with the tools they need for college and career success while maintaining their integrity and to become a positive member of society,” Withers said.
In PVSchools, counselors at the middle and high school levels work with students to examine their strengths, interests, and talents to identify personal career interests.
“Once students become excited about their possible career and postsecondary options, they become more optimistic about their academics, participate more fully in school activities, and understand that their organization and time management skills have relevance,” said Mary Harris, a lead counselor.
School counselors’ expanded role
School counselors of today are much different from guidance counselors from the past. They are in the classrooms, use technology, use data, as well as implement school goals to create a comprehensive program for all students.
Counselors are certified, experienced educators with a master’s degree in school counseling. Their main goal is to find each student’s “why” and to propel them into a positive mindset and path to achieve that goal.
It might not always be a perfect trajectory, but it is through those mistakes and struggles that make them stronger, more resilient, and better humans.
In addition to assisting students with college and career goals, school counselors help students work through emotional, medical, and social issues, including panic attacks and high anxiety on a daily basis by using mindfulness tools. They work with outside agencies and the homeless liaison to ensure students have the education possible and the tools needed to be successful.
“We help students through crisis situations, academic downfalls, emotional turmoil, medical issues, behavioral struggles, and general adolescent behaviors to learn and grow through these experiences to earning that high school diploma while being a good human,” Harris said.
“We help each one of our 450 students in some way get through. The amount of help depends on what each student needs,” Harris said. “There are countless success stories of students overcoming some type of turmoil to emerge on the other side, a better human.”
Middle and high school counselors are an integral part of each student’s academic team. Counselors work with administrators, teachers, and parents to develop a comfortable, healthy school environment.
“We view the student as a whole child and provide the academic, social/emotional, and college and career support each student needs,” Withers said.
“We support them in times of crisis, as well as encourage a positive mindset to move them forward to being productive adults,” Withers said. “We can offer them the support and encouragement that they may not feel they receive in other areas of their life.”
A school counselor’s day
While each day is different for middle and high school counselors, they typically start their day with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting, a 504 meeting, or a parent meeting.
During the school day, counselors are either in the classrooms providing Educational and Career Action Plan (ECAP) lessons or completing registration for the following school year.
If they are not in the classrooms, the counselors are meeting with students on academic, social/emotional, or career goals.
“We meet with students for goal setting, college advisement, transcript review, and schedule changes,” Withers said.
“We also spend time working on schedules, writing 504’s, crisis, participating in Student Teacher Assistance Team (STAT) meetings, college advisement, scholarship information, social/emotional support, and counseling,” Withers said.
“The goal of every school counselor is to spend as much of their day as possible, working directly with students,” Withers said.
Additionally, school counselors support students with registration, scheduling, dual enrollment options, peer tutoring, Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), college visits, and college nights. They review ECAP requirements, which include career interest surveys, personality profiles, goal setting, and career and college research abilities.
They make sure students are on track with graduation requirements, scholarship searches and information, provide social/emotional or crisis counseling, Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) administration, standardized testing preparation and/or administration, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) recruitment, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) advisement for athletic scholars, PVOnline registration and progress monitoring, peer mediation, proctoring Advanced Placement tests, senior award planning and preparation, class placement modifications, grades, homework, summer school advisement, course catalog knowledge, and facilitate college or military recruiters.
Graduation is the goal
The role of a school counselor is to help and support students in learning and achievement.
PVSchools provides counselors with Naviance Family Connection to help with the Arizona Educational and Career Action Plan responsibilities, but also provides students with access to scholarships – colleges and career, and personality assessments to determine the best careers for them.
“We feel like we are a member of a team, as we alone, cannot help a student graduate. We need the help of our teachers, parents, the community, and students to assume ownership of the process of a quality education,” Harris said.
“We have many resources available to aid learning and achievement as we guide students on the correct academic path while encouraging self-evaluation and interests to drive their mindset and motivation,” Harris said.
” By seeing students as individuals, we feel that each one who earns their diploma has had the help of a team of people to achieve that goal, and we feel very proud of the many hours we have spent with each and every graduate,” Harris said.
During National School Counselor Week, don’t forget to thank your teen’s school counselors for all they do on behalf of students.