Haywood County Schools is celebrating National School Counseling Week this month.
There are 21 counselors who work with more than 7,100 students in the 15 Haywood County Schools.
“Our school counselors have a tremendous impact on helping students achieve success inside and outside of school,” Haywood County Schools Superintendent Bill Nolte said. “This week is meant to focus attention on the unique contribution of professional school counselors within Haywood County Schools and how students are better as a result of school counselors.”
Haywood County Schools’ comprehensive counseling programs help to increase student achievement and provide a much-needed resource for students, parents, teachers and administrators.
All of the school district’s counselors are certified, experienced educators with a master’s degree in guidance and counseling. The combination of their training and experience makes them an integral part of the total educational program.
Counselors wear many hats and are visible in each of the district’s schools, but the job looks different from school to school.
In elementary schools, counselors work with teachers to provide classroom lessons, attend to crisis situations, and lead group and individual counseling sessions. They begin exposing students to careers early and work with school social workers to address student and family needs.
Joy Sollie, Junaluska Elementary School counselor, has served Haywood County Schools’ students for 15 years. She was a counselor for four years in middle school, six years in high school, and is completing her fifth year as an elementary school counselor.
When she is not meeting with students one-on-one, helping teachers work through their students’ challenges, or responding to crisis situations, Sollie teaches classroom lessons on identifying and regulating emotions, how to handle conflict, and how to identify safe or unsafe situations.
“The best part of my job is being able to interact with the kids, showing them they are important, and watching them grow as a young person,” Sollie explained. “I like being able to help students to be the best that they can be, no matter their situation.”
School counselors at the secondary level are actively committed to helping students explore their abilities, strengths, interests, and talents as these traits relate to career awareness and development.
They also address everything from social problems and other challenges a student may face outside of school to keeping students on track for graduation.
First-year counselor Joanna Tine says establishing trust with her Waynesville Middle School students has been the key to providing them with the services they need.
“Students have to know they have a safe space and someone to talk to,” Tine said. “It’s always a great day when students leave my office in a different mood or with a different point of view than when they came in.”
Although counselors at each school deal with an array of issues, Nolte said it is actually easy to summarize what school counselors do.
“Their basic priority is to make sure our kids are having a good day, are safe, and feel loved,” he said.