Jackson County Public Schools is joining school districts across the nation to celebrate National School Counseling Week. Held each year during the first week of February, the event recognizes an important but often overlooked group of educators who focus on success and achievement for every student.
"Whatever success looks like for a student, that's the role a school counselor takes on," said JCPS Director of Student Support Services Kelly Doppke. "That means creating success academically, socially, emotionally, building relationships or interpersonal skills," she said.
JCPS students are served by 12 school counselors. "Some of our larger schools have two or three school counselors," said Doppke, "but our goal has been to make sure every school has at least one counselor so we're not sharing and they are not traveling back and forth during the school day."
School counselors spend 80% of their time working directly with students in whole group or small group instruction. However, they are also part of each school's student support team that includes a school social worker, school nurse, student support specialist and a school administrator. Together, they address issues related to academics, attendance and behavior.
"All of those student support staff are an integral part of the school team," said Doppke. "They provide great support to all of our students."
While school counselors continue to emphasize traditional skills like college and career readiness, the growing conversation about mental health across the nation has brought to light the importance of connecting with students on a personal level. As a result, a key role for school counselors is identifying the challenges faced by students and providing individual support as needed.
"They tend to have a great ability to build relationships," said Doppke. "They teach a lot about what it looks like to be a good friend and to recognize when someone needs a friend, but also what it means to have privilege and what it means to be marginalized."
Doppke said anyone thinking about a career in education should consider school counseling. "If I were a student trying to decide about an education field and I like to serve others, school counseling is a service-oriented, service-minded field of education. They make a difference every day."