Feb. 11, 2022 - Campuses across Comal Independent School District have been celebrating National School Counseling Week and recognizing the important role that school counselors play in the lives of students and their families daily.
Currently, the district has 57 school counselors who serve its elementary, middle and high school campuses. Each is a certified and licensed educator. In fact, in Texas, a school counselor must have a master’s degree from an accredited university; complete a school counselor preparation program; have two years of classroom teaching experience and pass a school counselor exam before receiving a school counseling certification.
That’s quite a few additional steps to take, in order to become a counselor. As former teachers, they know firsthand what happens in the classroom, and this insight helps them in their roles as counselors.
Counselors from eight campuses were asked to respond to a few questions about their roles as school counselors. Combined, the 16 counselors have 130 years of experience. Here are a few samples of their responses.
Why did you choose to be a school counselor?
I wanted to have the opportunity to work with students in a different setting than the classroom, and I felt that I could make an even stronger impact on my students in a counselor role. – Kerri Gamez, Canyon High School
Throughout my time as a teacher, I realized that I enjoyed helping my students make decisions about their future and engaging with them in ways that created excitement about options beyond high school and college. – Brandi Boyd, CHS
Because the teen years are some of the most difficult in life and I want students to know that there are people who want to help them during that period. – Shar McKelvie, Canyon Lake High School
I chose to be a school counselor to help be a safe place and to help guide my kiddos. I really wanted to be the person that I needed as a kid. I am thankful for my HS English teacher for installing the belief in me that I can excel. I strive to be that light for my students. – Anna-Marie Trotter, Smithson Valley High School
I always knew I wanted to work in education but was also always drawn to the mental health field. When I found the career of school counseling, I immediately knew it was the perfect fit. I have always felt that schools have the ability not only academically, but socially and emotionally to impact students based on the hours each day students spend in school. Being able to work with students and often be their first exposure to a mental health professional is a very important and rewarding part of the school counselor's role. – Katherine Tolbert, Pieper High School
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Teaching students the strategies and tools to become their own problem solvers. It is rewarding to encourage children who begin as shy five-year-olds and grow into self-confident fifth graders ready to tackle middle school. – Donna Willeke, Freiheit Elementary
When a student comes in to see me during the day after they were crying in my office, and they tell me that everything turned out OK. - Monica Ulbricht, SVMS
Time with kids to help them navigate their middle school years and all that comes with that. – Nicolle Clark, MVMS
When students share their celebrations with me – whether they excelled on a test, performed on stage, won a game or they made a new friend. The fact that they want to share life celebrations with me is extremely rewarding. – Soraya Cordeau, DHS
I truly enjoy helping kids find their ‘home’ at school. Whether it is a club, organization, class, sport or program. Watching kids find their passion is so rewarding. When they find their place, they are connected with supportive friends, adults and myself as their team to help guide them. Also, celebrating students at graduation is a true gift. – Jennifer Simmons, CHS
The most rewarding times for me are when I can be a supportive listening ear to a student in need. – Stephanie Melton, CHS
When a student tells you that they feel better, relieved, or just happier after getting issues off their chest. – Sara Schroeder, SVHS
Meeting with students and seeing them grow over the years. Especially, when they take your advice and use that to be successful. – Ayanna Bush, SVHS
I love seeing the growth of my students over four years. When they enter high school, they are just beginning young adulthood and by the time they graduate it is amazing to see what their next plan is for their future. – Kristen Guerra, PHS
What is your main role as an elementary, middle or high school counselor?
My main role is to teach children to self-regulate, set and achieve goals and be kind human beings. – Willeke, FES
To provide support to students (and faculty/staff) with WHATEVER they need. It is an HONOR to follow our Mustangs into high school and see how much they are flourishing. - Ulbricht, SVMS
I believe my role is to be a source of help for students, in order, to connect them with whatever they may need to find success. That can range from outside counseling to a visit with a recruiter, taking a career inventory, helping them research their college admissions criteria, pushing them to take a more rigorous class, or even just a listening ear. They can come to see their counselor to support them in any decision. I am here as a listening ear and supportive adult on their team to not only ensure graduation but beyond as well. – Simmons, CHS
My main role is to be an advocate for students, to ensure that they have the support they need to graduate and be successful. – Johanna Hoyo, SVHS
I see my role as being an advocate for my students, a social-emotional support, as well an educator on academics and planning for after high school. Our job is divided daily by individual, group, or even crisis counseling, along with teaching life skills through classroom guidance, academic planning, and advising. School counselors also work with teachers, administration, and outside mental health professionals in planning, and implementing programs. -Tolbert, PHS
What would you like people to know about your job? What is the biggest misconception of a school counselor's role?
We work with children who need extra attention to be successful in the classroom; we help families who are in crisis find resources; we manage programs such as LPAC, 504 and testing; we help staff members find solutions to issues in the classroom; we help children who are having big emotions; and we help each other. – Willeke, FES
Every day is different and challenges me to think outside the box. I think the biggest misconception about school counselors, is that we ‘fix’ students, when in fact, we encourage students to look at options and make educated decisions. – Natalie Gates, DHS
A school counselor has to juggle many situations in a day. We can have a student come in and need support in a class and then the next student might really be struggling with anxiety. We have to switch gears all the time to meet the needs of students. This is in addition to all the many tasks we have such as auditing transcripts, verifying rank, course selection, classroom presentations, evening events, enrolling new students, and graduation. We need to be available to meet the individual needs of students each day while also making sure we are supporting the student body as a whole as we move through the school year. It is a challenge but is it so rewarding. – Simmons, CHS
A common misconception about being a school counselor is that we do not interact with students enough because we work in an office setting. In reality, we are working directly with individual students with their scheduling needs, providing college recommendations, providing social/emotional support, and/or advocating for them in some way, throughout the entire day. – Boyd, CHS
I would like people to know that my job is a privilege because I get the honor of being a person students will go to when they feel like they don't have any other place to turn. We have lots of students who are dealing with traumatic events in their lives while also trying to make it through the school day. – McKelvie, CLHS
I want my students and families to know that my purpose and joy is to be here for them. So many folks apologize for reaching out to me by saying, ‘I'm so sorry to bother you, I know you're busy,’ and that just breaks my heart. Do not apologize! It's true that I am busy- busy helping you! You are worthy of my time and attention. – Hoyo, SVHS
We often fight the notion that all school counselors do is change schedules. Since we are not classroom teachers anymore, sometimes our "wires" get crossed with School Administrator duties. That is the beauty of our job. We are advocates for students and specialize in student success. We do follow the Texas Comprehensive Counseling Model that incudes Individual Planning, Guidance Curriculum, Responsive Services, and Support Services. – Bush, SVHS
I would like people to know that a proactive school counseling program is pre-planned, based on teacher, student, and community input, and driven by data. Often the misconception is that counselors solely work at a computer doing scheduling, but we love to be working with parents, teachers, and students in classrooms, the cafeteria, school events, and parent nights. I truly believe connection is the key to a great counselor and establishing relationships and collaboration with all the above mentioned best supports the work a school counselor can do. -Tolbert, PHS
-Canyon High School Counselors
-Canyon Lake High School Counselors
-Freiheit Elementary School Counselor
-Mountain Valley Middle School Counselors
-Pieper Ranch Middle and Pieper High School Counselors
-Smithson Valley High School Counselors