Recognizing the importance of school counselors

National School Counseling Week is celebrated Feb. 6-10, 2017, to focus public attention on the unique contribution of professional school counselors within school systems and to showcase how students are different as a result of what school counselors do. National School Counseling Week highlights the tremendous impact school counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for their postsecondary education and career.

School counselors

  • help students examine their abilities, strengths, interests, and talents;
  • work in a partnership with parents as they encounter the challenges of raising children in today’s world; and
  • collaborate with teachers and other educators to provide an educational system where students can realize their potential and set healthy, realistic, and optimistic aspirations for themselves.

When school counselors work to remove barriers to a student’s academic success everybody wins. While counselors’ attention is directed at student success, National School Counseling Week is a great time to shine the light on the success of our school counselors.

Four years ago, Carla Christian and Brandy Thompson, school counselors at Houston Middle School in Germantown, realized that their counseling program met the standards of the American School Counselor Association’s (ASCA) Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) distinction. This distinction lets your school community know that the school counseling program is comprehensive, data-driven, and effectively addresses the needs of all students. Recent research has found the schools with RAMP counseling programs have higher ELA and math proficiency rates than those schools who have not earned the RAMP distinction.

The counselors began the year-long competitive application process collecting data showing how they implemented the counseling program and the impact of the services and activities included in that program. Their hard work paid off because Houston Middle School was awarded the RAMP distinction at the 2016 national conference. Ms. Christian and Ms. Thompson, accompanied by their administrator Liz Dias, traveled to New Orleans to receive their award during a special ceremony.

With this recognition, HMS becomes the first middle school and only fourth school in Tennessee to earn this honor. Dias recalls the decision four years ago, in which she and the counseling staff decided to pursue the RAMP distinction. “It was a long process,” she said.

She considers the counselors a vital extension of her administrative team—but not in the way most principals do.

“They aren’t there to handle overflow work, but to aid in making integral decisions,” says Dias. “These two ladies have their pulse on what the kids want and what the kids need. And at Houston Middle School we keep the students at the center of all decision making. Everything we do is what’s best for students.”

The counselors at Houston Middle School continually go above and beyond. Emphasis on social emotional skills like relationship building and character development are brought into the classroom and truly resonate in the culture established by Dias and her counseling team. “With events like Days of Diversity aimed at increasing a positive culture at Houston Middle School”, says Dias, “we are working with our teachers, parents, and counselors to look at the education of the whole child”.

For her unwavering support, Ms. Dias was recognized as the Tennessee School Counselors Association’s Middle School Principal of the Year during the School Counselor and Administrator Leadership Institute this past fall. Ms. Christian and Ms. Thompson nominated their administrator for this award as an expression of appreciation for the support she offers the school counseling program every day. A strong partnership between the administrator and school counselors is vital to the success of the school counseling program.

Congratulations to Liz Dias, Carla Christian, and Brandy Thompson for being recognized nationally for providing a high quality school counseling program that not only serves all the students at Houston Middle School but also keeps students at the center of all school priorities.