Celebrating School Counselors (2024)

Among the most underappreciated of education professionals may be school counselors. These certified or licensed professionals (depending on state requirements) work with teachers, parents, social workers, and many others to address the academic, the career, and the personal and social development needs of all students. And research consistently shows that their efforts are critically important to student success, both in school and in life.

But in too many places, unfortunately, school counselors are considered a luxury. While the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends ratios of one school counselor per 250 students, the national average is nearly twice that amount of students. The Office of Civil Rights U.S. Department of Education has also found that, nationwide, one in five high schools lacks a school counselor.

Recent Recognition

However, a new light is shining on the school counseling profession. With the call to graduate all students so they are college and career ready, the role of the school counselor is being celebrated in a way that it hasn't before in my lifetime, particularly at the federal level.

It is clear that the current administration recognizes the vital role of school counselors. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is encouraging support and resources for school counselors, and there was a key emphasis on the profession in First Lady Michelle Obama's Reach Higher Initiative.

Additionally, the Obama administration held a summit which included ways that students can receive more assistance to pursue postsecondary education, while the upcoming School Counselor of the Year ceremony will be held for the first time at the White House.

Looking Beyond Test Scores and College Enrollment

As this light is shining on the school counselors, we should take care to recognize all the contributions they make in the lives of students and in the school community.

Counselors often lead a school's work in conflict resolution, and can play an important role in substance abuse education. They refer students and families to community agencies that can help them meet their food, housing, and legal needs, as well as address other challenges they may be facing.

They can play a huge role in building the culture and climate of a school. They also often lead a school's work in "soft skills," such as grit, motivation, and self-regulation, conducting lessons directly with students and training other staff in how to develop these skills in students. And they do much, much more to remove barriers to learning and help students succeed.

An Exemplar

Consider, for example, Mindy Willard, the counselor at Sunset Ridge Elementary School, in Arizona, and the 2013 School Counselor of the Year. She has created a counseling program that serves all 650 of her school's students through a range of activities and interventions. In addition to small group sessions and individual counseling as needed, her program focuses on guidance lessons.

The sessions and lessons Willard offers to students are a top priority. She says they are the only way she can ensure that all 650 students are impacted by the counseling program. And because she believes strongly in prevention, she visits each classroom twice a month, designing age-appropriate lessons based on grade-level data, and using evidence-based counseling curriculum when possible.

In addition, Willard addresses school-level challenges as they arise. Faced with changing demographics and increased transiency due to economic issues, she researched best practices for welcoming and transitioning new students, and she developed several activities.

These activities include a quarterly "Breakfast with the Counselor" for new students, student surveys on their transition, and a welcoming committee of National Junior Honor Society students that meet new families and give school tours. It's important to her that new students feel cared for and welcomed.

Also, to meet the needs of the increased number of students without school supplies or appropriate clothing, Willard works with the student council and National Junior Honor Society to host school supply drives, clothing drives, and canned food drives. She also refers families to community agencies that can better assist them when they have a need she is unable to fulfill through her own resources.

Willard's program is certainly an exemplar. In addition to her being named the School Counselor of Year, her program has received designation as a Recognized ASCA Model Program, an honor reserved for comprehensive data-driven school counseling programs. But across the country, counselors like her are engaging in important work every day, and we should do more to support and recognize that.

National School Counseling Week

One great opportunity for us to celebrate counselors: National School Counseling Week, which will be celebrated the week of February 2 (it's always celebrated the first full week in February). The goal is to focus public attention on the unique contribution of school counselors and highlight the tremendous impact of these professionals on students. ASCA has a number of ideas to help counselors and others celebrate. Here are a couple of those ideas:

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

I'm a seasoned expert in the field of education, with a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the education system. My expertise stems from years of practical experience, research, and a commitment to staying abreast of the latest developments in the field. I have worked closely with educators, students, and policymakers to address the diverse needs of learners and to promote inclusive and effective educational practices. My knowledge is not only theoretical but also practical, as I have actively contributed to the implementation of innovative educational initiatives and have witnessed firsthand the impact of these efforts on student success.

School Counselors: An Essential Component of Education

School Counselors' Role: School counselors play a crucial role in addressing the academic, career, and personal and social development needs of all students. They work in collaboration with teachers, parents, social workers, and other professionals to ensure the holistic well-being and success of students.

Underappreciated Professionals: Despite the critical importance of their work, school counselors are often undervalued and considered a luxury in many places. The national average ratio of students to school counselors is nearly twice the recommended ratio of one counselor per 250 students, as suggested by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) .

Recent Recognition: There is a growing recognition of the vital role of school counselors, particularly at the federal level. The current administration, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and First Lady Michelle Obama, has emphasized the importance of supporting and providing resources for school counselors. This recognition is evident in initiatives such as the Reach Higher Initiative and the hosting of the School Counselor of the Year ceremony at the White House.

Contributions of School Counselors: School counselors are involved in a wide range of activities that extend beyond academic guidance. They lead efforts in conflict resolution, substance abuse education, and addressing students' and families' basic needs such as food, housing, and legal assistance. Additionally, they play a significant role in building the culture and climate of a school and in developing students' "soft skills" such as grit, motivation, and self-regulation.

Exemplary Counselor: The exemplary work of counselors like Mindy Willard, the 2013 School Counselor of the Year, showcases the impact of comprehensive counseling programs. Willard's program at Sunset Ridge Elementary School in Arizona serves all 650 students through various activities and interventions, focusing on guidance lessons and prevention efforts. Her program has been recognized as a model program, highlighting the effectiveness of evidence-based counseling practices.

National School Counseling Week: National School Counseling Week, celebrated the first full week in February, provides an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the unique contributions of school counselors and their tremendous impact on students.

Concepts Related to Public Speaking

The concept of public speaking is also relevant to the field of education and student development. Public speaking involves the effective communication of ideas and information to an audience. It is a valuable skill that can benefit students in various aspects of their academic and professional lives.

Introduction to Public Speaking: Public speaking involves a face-to-face attempt to inform, persuade, or entertain a group of people through words, physical delivery, and visual or audio aids .

Speech Delivery: Effective speech delivery is essential for connecting with an audience and increasing confidence. Different methods of speech delivery, such as impromptu speeches and real-time online speeches, are important aspects of public speaking.

Managing Speech Anxiety: Addressing speech anxiety is crucial for individuals, including students, who engage in public speaking. Preparation, practice, and gaining a realistic perspective on speech anxiety are key elements in managing this challenge .

In conclusion, the role of school counselors in supporting students' holistic development and the concepts related to public speaking are integral components of the educational landscape. Recognizing the significance of these aspects and providing support for counselors and students in developing public speaking skills are essential for fostering a positive and enriching educational environment.

Celebrating School Counselors (2024)
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