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SCUC counselors play crucial role in student success
There is no such thing as a typical day for Kimberly Nipper, school counselor at Watts Elementary School, or any of her colleagues at SCUC ISD for that matter. She can attempt to schedule her day, but all bets are off as soon as she sets foot on campus.
“It could be a different crisis that comes up with kids, or sometimes teachers are needing help. It’s all kinds of things,” Nipper said. “I get called a lot when the kids are upset in class and I help to get them to calm down.”
Nipper and all school counselors are gratefully acknowledged during National School Counseling Week, observed the week of February 6-10, 2023. In addition to social and emotional support, counselors provide guidance for careers at all grade levels. Secondary school counselors have the added responsibility of steering students through course selections, college, career and military options, and scholarship/financial aid opportunities.
“Counselors have to have such a broad range of knowledge as they help students navigate their emotions, socialization, post-secondary choices, and much more,” said Cassandra Gracia, SCUC Director of Counseling. “They provide individual and group counseling, guidance lessons, and support through any system that can provide additional resources. The needs of students have increased and changed over the past few years, and I’m so proud of how our counselors have responded.”
Anxieties brought about by divorce, death of loved ones and high profile national events, to name a few, have dramatically changed the school counseling landscape. Student behavioral and emotional needs also increased significantly during the pandemic, with the after effects still being felt three years later.
“Our kids have experienced more trauma than before, That’s a lot to deal with when you’re five or six years old,” Nipper said. “A big part of my role is just giving those coping skills, letting them know it’s okay to feel those emotions but finding better ways to express them.”
One outlet Nipper uses effectively is music, drawing on her experiences as a music teacher for 16 years at Watts ES. “I have found there are certain kids who I can calm down if I can get a certain song for them,” she said. “I have a playlist in my head for each kid that I know that likes this song and I use that as a tool to help them.”
Twenty-first century education has brought student social-emotional health into sharp focus, and has elevated school counselors as co-equals in every student’s instructional journey. Finding a way to connect with every student on campus and develop meaningful relationships, however, can seem like an insurmountable task.
“It can be tough at times,” said Gracia. “But I see each and every one of them putting the needs of their students first and supporting them so they can reach their full potential.”
"We need more of us to be truly able to make the impact we need,” Nipper said. “But I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I cry and I get frustrated but this is where I was called to be and I wouldn’t give it up.”
PHOTOS (courtesy Candice Ridge Photography)