By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
The theme of this year’s National School Counseling Week is “All In for All Students.”
And Superintendent Jeanice Swift says those words are especially appropriate right now.
“Our AAPS school counselors have given their all to work in service to AAPS students, to ensure we remain connected with students, even while we are physically apart,” she said in a letter to the AAPS community. “Counselors work in professional partnerships with teachers, staff, administrators, and community partners to reach out and reduce barriers to learning for our students. School counselors provide the many supports necessary for students, despite their life challenges, to remain healthy and whole, to grow, and to achieve at the highest levels.”
School counselors are certified, experienced educators with a master’s degree in school counseling driven by a calling and a passion for serving students and families, Swift noted.
AAPS’ counseling staff includes 27 high school counselors, 18 middle school counselors, and two retired counselors who support the team at the central office.
Heather Schimmel, who is AAPS District Counseling Chair and a counselor at Skyline high school, quoted a colleague who was once asked during a job interview: What is the most important job of a counselor?
His answer: “Whoever is sitting in that chair across from me.”
“I love this!” says Schimmel. “It really does sum up our role and the greatest thing in my mind about being a counselor. Each student and family is unique and requires unique needs and supports. I love being able to work one on one with students and families to figure this out and to make their school experiences the best that they can be.”
Community High School counselor Amy McLoughlin said it’s important to celebrate SCW because in the last decade and especially during the pandemic, students and families are struggling.
“School counselors often see students and families in crisis and while it is rewarding to help folks, it can weigh on us as human beings,” she says. “We have learned much more about secondary trauma and its effects, so the opportunity to celebrate each other is welcomed.”
“We are built to empathize and right now we are personally managing the pandemic, along with the social inequities and unrest in our country—while also doing our best to support students, families, and our teachers virtually,” McLoughlin says. “The pandemic has really elevated our need for self-care and balance because while empathy is what we all need right now, counselors often prioritize others and our own health becomes secondary.”
A grant any time of year is exciting news, but the Clague Middle School counselors say that receiving a Youth Mental Health Mini-Grant for nearly $5,000 just before National School Counseling Week makes it all the better.
“Having the grant funds to purchase these mental health resources and make them immediately accessible to students online is more important than ever,” says Clague Middle School seventh grade counselor Kathryn Hoover. “Our counseling team is all in for all students! We are committed to supporting the needs of our school’s diverse population and this is one way we can do that. We worked together to review and identify books addressing a diverse range of topics to create a mental health library both digitally and at school with hard copies. Some of these topics include LGBTQ, disabilities, anti-racism, grief and loss, anxiety and depression. We could not have done it without the help of our Librarian, Kim McClean, who will also help introduce these new resources to our students.”
This funding was made possible by the Washtenaw County Mental Health Public Safety Preservation Millage, and Washtenaw Intermediate School District.
Funds will be used for:
- a school license and a digital copy of the film “The Bully”
- an educator tool-kit for bullying prevention and the lessons offered in the book, “Owning Up: Empowering Adolescents to Create a Culture of Dignity & Confront Social Cruelty and Injustice”
- a mental health library for students that includes developmentally-appropriate titles (digital and hard copy) that address students’ social-emotional learning
- furniture to create a safe and inviting space for students
- a bookmobile to display and categorize books into mental health topics
Hoover said the counselors couldn’t do what they do without the support of Principal Che´ Carter and Assistant Principal Jennifer Daddow.
“They support us in everything we do,” she said. “Their leadership inspires us. They make sure we have the support, guidance and