A Strong Support For Students
Academic guidance. Career research and counseling. Support for emotional and mental health issues.
There’s no single description that completely sums up the role of a school counselor. Because they seem to do it all.
“The main role is supporting students academically, socially and emotionally throughout the year,” explains Ben Koepsell, a counselor at Sheboygan Falls High School. “The time of year dictates what other things we are working on. We wear many different hats.”
During National School Counselor Week (February 3-7), Koepsell and the other district counselors took a moment to reflect on their responsibilities and how their jobs have changed over the years. All agree that their primary responsibility is supporting students in any way possible. With over 72 combined years of school counseling experience, and each counselor holding a masters degree in counseling, the team is well-equipped to support students on their own learning paths.
“We are advocates for our students first and foremost- always trying to keep their best interests at the forefront of our work,” says Britne Lorge, who works at both Sheboygan Falls Elementary and Middle School.
And it’s not just students.
“Relationships are very important in our roles- establishing good communication and teamwork with all stakeholders is key to helping our students,” Lorge adds. “This includes students, staff, family, and community members or resources. We collaborate and communicate, working together to best support our students and their needs.”
Needs differ depending on the age and grade level of students.
“The elementary years are a time when students are developing their identity, self-esteem and their feelings of competence as learners,” says Nikki Humski, who works at Sheboygan Falls Elementary School. “They are starting to develop life skills. As an elementary school counselor I provide education, prevention and interventions, which are integrated into all aspects of children’s lives.”
Lorge and Humski work with elementary students in weekly large group Classroom Counseling sessions, small groups and individual sessions. Lorge also works with fourth and fifth grade students as they prepare to transition to middle school.
Career counseling at the elementary level includes TEAM Talk Conferences, which are held in the spring. After learning about their individual strengths and interests and discussing the importance of goal-setting, fourth grade students prepare their “learner resume,” which is shared with parents at the conference.
In the upper grades, there is more emphasis on academic and career planning, especially at the high school level. Counselors help students prepare to take the ACT test and set up career exploration activities. At a recent Focus On The Future event, freshmen and sophomores learned about possible careers at local companies while juniors and seniors participated in Adulting 101 sessions that explored many aspects of life after high school such as finances, insurance and career communication skills.
Juniors and seniors also work on updating their resumes and participate in mock interviews in the spring. High school students also hold TEAM Talks. Counselors meet with all students and their parents or guardians to set up individual plans so they can be successful in academics and prepare for career options.
All counselors have additional training and education in order to do their jobs. They are licensed professionals and must hold master’s degrees.
In addition to their regular responsibilities, counselors also serve on district committees and teams “as ways to better serve our school community,” says Patrick Uselding, who works at Sheboygan Falls Middle School. Uselding is a member of the district’s Leadership Team, the Social Emotional Learning Team and the Wellness Team.
“I have taken on more leadership roles as it relates to some of our District initiatives such as Trauma Sensitive Schools, Mental Health supports, and Social Emotional Learning,” she says. “I strive to not only support students through communication, teamwork, and collaboration, but by also leading by example and teaching/leading staff to support our students as well.”
Counselors have seen an increase in mental health issues among students.
“The school environment is a reflection of our society,” says Janis Jarosch, a high school counselor. “I have seen a dramatic increase in mental health issues with students and work with students on how to cope and deal with whatever it is they are going through.”
“I’m not sure if it’s because there are more academic, social or emotional needs; or if it’s that more students are comfortable seeking assistance; but I see more students now than I have in the past,” Uselding says. “There is a greater range of concerns as well.”
“Students are more open to support from the school counselor,” Humski adds. “They seek me out for a variety of reasons.”
Because they know just who to go to for help.