Student’s Biggest Supporters: Counselors

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Paola Nolasco, writer

Challenges

 

At Independence High School, there are six counselors: Lynnet Cramer, Nancy Burns, Elissa Koole, Laura Trezza, Jennifer Reed and Susan Knapp. Their job is to help address students’ academic and emotional needs; however, the switch to online learning has changed their methods of contacting students.

The transition to an online platform can be perceived as both good and bad.

“The online experience has been challenging and even frustrating. I’m sure that others are feeling the same disconnection,” Counselor Susan Knapp said. “From the start, human beings are social creaturesto each their own extent. There is only so much that email, texting, or looking at someone through a screen can accomplish.”

Despite the disadvantages counselors face when using an online platform, there are also advantages to it, especially for seniors transitioning to college.

“In some ways we have been able to provide support in a way that is better online. When online, we can share the screen and see exactly what they are typing into an application and work with them to complete it,” said Jennifer Reed, the guidance counselor. “We have also streamlined our information into a google classroom that is constantly updated with information about college, scholarships, financial aid and so much more.”

Counselors do their best to offer help to students, though there are some attendance issues. 

“We offer so many workshops online, but the attendance of the events is where we struggle,” Ms. Reed said. “We send reminder messages and emails to classes, but the overall motivation for some students this year has declined.”

Apart from online learning, the disproportionate student-to-counselor ratio also poses a problem.

According to azcentral news, the average student-to-counselor ratio was 905 students per counselor between 2016 and 2017, which is three times higher than the organization’s recommended 250:1 and nearly twice the national average of 455;1. 

The student-to-counselor ratio at Independence High School is approximately 440 students per counselor.

“The challenging part of the job is having many students on a caseload, and that can affect how much I am able to work with students individually due to time,” Counselor Laura Trezza said. 

Counselors acknowledge students’ struggles during this period of online learning. 

“I feel like some students might be struggling with the extra pressure of trying to pass classes on a cumbersome virtual platform in order to graduate,” Ms. Knapp said. “Many are experiencing difficulties with mental health and not having the skills or support to help. Others are straddled with the challenges of helping to care for other family members or working to earn money while trying to stay afloat with schoolwork.”

Reopening Schools

With COVID-19 cases lifting, Governor Dough Ducey issued an executive order to reopen schools on March 3. 

Independence High School sent out a survey in the first week of March asking the student’s parents if their child would be returning to school on March 22. 

“I am happy that students will be coming back to campus. I think having them have that routine again will be good for them and help them finish the year strong. ” Ms. Trezza said. 

Helping Seniors

Counselors also understand seniors’ worries about their future.

“At first, it’s like “Yay!! I’m a senior!” At some point, there’s the ‘Oh crap!’ moment. It doesn’t always happen at the same time for everyone but, it happens. Then, the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s not a train coming, it’s graduation! Hopefully, everyone gets there and if I’ve played a part in that, I feel blessed.” Ms. Knapp said.

One of the tools for success the counselors offer to seniors is the Class of 2021: Counseling and Career Center Updates in Google Classroom. This has information for ECAPs, College Admissions, Financial Aid (FAFSA), Scholarships, ACT and SAT, Volunteering and more. It even has a section for frequently asked questions. 

Counselor’s Support   

While the current situation may not be ideal, counselors still find joy in helping students, oftentimes behind the scenes.

“We have the best students at Independence, and they are often so appreciative of any help I try to offer,” Ms. Reed said. “While we were learning remote, we communicated frequently by email, but when students joined me for help in WebEx meetings- that was the best part of my day.”

The year is nearing its end, and the school counselors have a few encouraging words. 

“My message… Please. Please. Keep moving forward. Take steps! Even if they’re baby steps! Do. Not. Quit.” Ms. Knapp urged. “You are worth the effort because you have something to give to others.”

“We are so proud of all of you,” Ms. Trezza added. “Be proud of the resilience you have developed during this challenging time.”

If you didn’t know, counselors are your biggest fans. Please give them some love, Patriots!