This week, we’re excited to celebrate National School Counseling Week to help bring awareness to the important role that our K-12 school counselors have as they dedicate their professional lives to care for and support our students to help them achieve school success and plan for their futures. From providing safe and supportive areas for students to receive mental health or social help, to helping students remove barriers to academic success, to providing classroom lessons, to helping kids figure out “what they want to be when they grow up,” school counselors are celebrated not only this week–but every day–for the unique work they do to support all aspects of a student’s journey through school as they help each reach their potential to become his or her best. Today, we’re proud to highlight Jacksonwald’s counselor, Mrs. Kate Atkinson.
Q: How long have you been a school counselor? How long have you worked at Exeter?
A: This is my 13th year as a school counselor overall. I have been at Exeter for 4 years, and before that I worked at Daniel Boone for 9 years.
Q: Did you do anything prior to becoming a counselor? If so, what? Why did you change your career?
A: After I finished my graduate program I spent a year working at the 422 Sportsplex as the Party Planning Coordinator and Coordinator for their Youth Developmental Soccer Program “Lil Kickers” while I searched for my first position as a school counselor. I learned many valuable skills from this position and had a lot of fun working with great people!
Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?
A: My favorite part of my job everyday is just working with the kids. I enjoy getting to know them, their different fun personalities, feeling inspired by their wonderful energy and excitement and helping them grow in different ways and past various challenges. The absolute BEST part of this job is watching a kid succeed with something that has been hard for them and seeing their confidence grow. The best reward for this career is when a student tells you that you helped them with something and that somehow you have made a positive impact in their life. That is the goal every single day and the hope that keeps me going, even on hard days.
Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
A: The hardest part of my job is prioritizing student needs and trying to fit it all in during the school day! There are so many students who have needs and lost of other roles and responsibilities that we fill as school counselors and only 7.5 hours each day to try and get it all done. It is a real juggling act to try and balance all of the various needs and tasks throughout the day/week/year.
Q: If you were talking to someone who knew nothing about your work, how would you complete this sentence? “People are surprised to learn that I….”
A: “… do more than listen to kids who are crying or upset at school!” Students and families today face many different challenges and school counseling has shifted a lot in the past decade to have more of a focus on proactive advocacy and social/emotional/mental health supports. I work with so many different stakeholders in a child’s life to try and help support through a challenging time, identify needs (social, emotional, behavioral, academic), and connect families and students with resources. Additionally, I teach classroom lessons on social-emotional topics, teach career-readiness lessons (3rd and 4th), and facilitate small group counseling for students with a specific needs. I tell kids all the time: “My main job is to listen, understand, and try to help you with anything that might be holding you back from being successful at school.”
Q: The theme for this year’s School Counseling Week is “Better Together.” What does that mean to you?
A: Partnership in education. “It takes a village to raise a child,” and we are most successful when all adults in a child’s life are working together and supporting each other through our common goal: growing successful, confident, kind humans.
Q: When you were in elementary school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: When I was little I wanted to be a teacher, just like my mom!
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
A: It is a joy and a privilege to be a part of my students’ lives and a support and resource on their educational journey. I am thankful for the teachers, administrators and staff that support our school counseling programs and the work we do with kids. I am also thankful to all of our families for your trust and support on the home front. #BetterTogether