Celebrating National Counselors Week 2021!

We are excited to celebrate National Counselors Week this year by recognizing these amazing school counselors, both current and former, in this blog post! Read on to learn about who they are, what they enjoy about being a school counselor, and for advice they have for other school counselors based on their experiences.

To all school counselors everywhere, thank you for the hard work and long hours you put in to ensure your students are truly ready for college, career, and life.

Rebecca Cooling

Counselor at Dowling Catholic High School, IA – Rebecca is a wife and a mother of three little boys from Iowa. She graduated from The University of Iowa with her Masters in Professional School Counseling in 2014. She also holds a Masters in Academic Advising from Kansas State University. This is her seventh year as a school counselor at Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Favorite part of being a school counselor: I love being a school counselor. I love how unique the role of the school counselor is and the impact I am able to have on the lives of the students and families I work with.

Favorite Naviance feature: Currently, we are loving the Naviance Curriculum. It has been helpful in delivering the majority of our guidance curriculum through a virtual platform. 

Advice for other school counselors: My advice would be to always advocate for yourself and your position. “Data talks” and can be crucial in guiding your day-to-day role as well as the focus you want for your program. Collaborate with others and do not hesitate to lean on other counselors. Never forget, you’re doing amazing work and YOU ROCK!

Dave Ellefson

Counselor at Hutchinson High School, MN – Dave is a high school counselor at Hutchinson High School in Hutchinson, Minnesota. Hutchinson is a rural, manufacturing city and is 60 miles west of Minneapolis, MN. He has been serving as an educator for 33 years. His first 3 years he taught at a private K – 8 school in Los Angeles. Then he moved to Hutchinson and taught Social Studies until 1999. At that time, he moved into the Counseling Office at Hutchinson High School and he continues to service in this position today. 

Along with his counseling duties, during the summer months he continues to teach Social Studies for the Area Alternative Learning Center. He loves coaching football and baseball. These roles provide him with opportunities to mentor young people. Dave has been an advocate for the development of career pathways at Hutchinson High School. He is passionate about developing resources to help improve student well-being and learning.

Favorite part of being a school counselor: I love working with each high school student, learning about their personal experiences, discussing their future goals, and helping them to define their unique postsecondary path.

Favorite Naviance feature: Naviance has transformed the way I collect and document student data and communicate with our students and families. Naviance is a counseling tool every counseling office must utilize.  This twenty-first century technology will transform any counseling center into a more efficient and interactive up-to-date resource for students, parents, and staff. To pick my favorite feature is difficult because all serve an important role when working with students. Naviance has been essential to the development of our school and community-based career pathways. The enhanced career features have made Naviance an even more powerful tool in helping students to create their 4-year plans in Naviance. The plans of study and career pathways features allow students to create plans that are tailored to individual student needs and goals.

Advice for other school counselors: Over the 33 years I have worked in education I have learned how important it is to learn something new every day.  I have found that if you approach each day as a chance to get a little better, it is amazing how those little steps may positively alter a person’s life or the lives of those around them.

Mike Jensen

Former School Counselor; District Account Manager, Naviance – Mike grew up on a farm in west central Minnesota, wanting to be a teacher and a coach one day.  He went to St. Cloud State University in central Minnesota and then taught middle school/high school social science and coached varsity basketball and baseball for 12 years. During that time, he went back to grad school and got a MS in School Counseling. From there he landed at a suburban Twin Cities district where he served as Lead Counselor and district Naviance implementation lead for 14 years. He fell in love with Naviance and what it did for his students, their parents, his team and their district.

Favorite part of being a school counselor: The connection to students, knowing the whole student and working with them directly to prepare them for their postsecondary life.

Favorite Naviance feature: Too many to choose one, but here are some of my favorites: SuperMatch, Road Trip Nation, RepVisits, Journal tool, Surveys, Alumni Tracker, Analytics.

Advice for other school counselors: Don’t be intimidated by Naviance. Just start integrating Naviance into your practice and make Naviance work to improve your efficiency. Counselor-student ratios are crazy big; Naviance allows your team to become more pro-active, rather than reactive, and can help you to detail to administration school counselor contributions and impact on students. This can then lead to administrative advocacy in hiring additional school counselors, deepening the school counselor impact on students.

Cathy Longstreet

Counselor at Hastings High School, MI – Cathy is a public high school counselor and K-12 Counseling Department Chair in Hastings, Michigan. She began her education career as a second grade teacher then transitioned to elementary counseling after her fourth year of teaching. She has worked as a school counselor for a total of 20 years in every level in her district and has been a high school counselor the past ten years. 

Cathy’s emphasis in her work centers around helping students discover their natural talents and skills and assisting them to forge their own authentic path. She is devoted to diminishing the systemic barriers to college access that all underrepresented students face and seeks any opportunity to advocate on behalf of rural or disadvantaged students. 

Her other professional interests involve advocating for her profession at the local and state level, such as highlighting the importance of defining the role of a school counselor so they are utilized appropriately within the school setting.

In her spare time, Cathy is an USC Bovard Scholar admission coach guiding high-achieving/low-income students as they navigate the college application process.

She was appointed as a member of Michigan’s first Governor’s Educator Advisory Council, chosen as a Michigan College Access Network School Counselor Fellow, and serves on Naviance’s Advisory Board. She is a past executive board member of the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling (MACAC) and a member of the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) and the Michigan School Counselor Association (MSCA).

Cathy earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and French from Alma College, a master’s degree in the Art of Teaching from Aquinas College, and a master’s degree in Counselor Education from Western Michigan University.  

Favorite part of being a school counselor: I love working with each high school student, learning about their personal experiences, discussing their future goals, and helping them to define their unique post-secondary path.

Favorite Naviance feature: I love Course Planner. I use it often when speaking to students about their postsecondary plan, showing how to tie their high school course choice to their intended future career.  During scheduling with students, I use Course Planner to capture students’ requests for the upcoming school year, which was very helpful when our school was fully virtual last spring.

Additionally, during the pandemic, the ability to assign tasks and programs to students has also been incredibly helpful. I have been able to remotely assign students their necessary Educational Development Work that is required by our state, without having to explain each piece in detail. This allows me to use more of my student contact time to help them understand the meaning of this work and its connection to their future.

Advice for other school counselors: Don’t ever forget about maintaining balance in your life! Most counselors entered this profession because of their desire to help others; it is within our being to assist when needed. In the midst of our work, however, we often forget about taking care of ourselves. This has been exacerbated by this pandemic. Working virtually has brought forth its own challenges including counselors finding themselves helping students whenever the need arises, often outside normal school hours.  During these challenging times it is even more important to manage the demands within our life and prioritize self-care.

Sam Riley

Former School Counselor; Senior Project Consultant, Naviance – As a Senior Project Consultant for Naviance, Sam has been with Hobsons for almost two years working with traditional, mid-market, and enterprise districts to implement Naviance. Currently, Sam works with the Arkansas Department of Education, creating standards-based alignment between the Naviance CCLR Framework and Arkansas state standards.

Prior to becoming a Naviance consultant, Sam worked in education for a decade, serving as a teacher, high school counselor, and curriculum writer in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. During her 3 years as a counselor, Sam worked to ensure her students had access to the best possible college and career outcomes and were empowered to make the transition into adulthood. Sam is passionate about cultivating meaningful training and developmental opportunities through Naviance so that educators can help students reach their highest educational and vocational potential.

Favorite part of being a school counselor: My favorite thing about being a counselor was empowering young adults to advocate for themselves. It was a joy to watch my students grow in confidence as they stopped asking whether they could or could not do something, and started figuring out “how to.” I loved watching and facilitating transformational growth, and thought it was incredibly powerful to see my students who overcame their own struggles pay it forward and advocate for other voices around them.

Favorite Naviance feature: I am a strong advocate of utilizing data to tell a story, so the analytics features are by far my favorite in Naviance. The reports in Naviance can help you impact school culture and student attitudes by pinpointing trends in the student body. For example, the outcomes report might indicate that student college interests are impacted by the timing of standardized tests or the course demand report may help you determine what courses are going to be the most impactful in several years. These analytics can help you become a proactive counselor and make sure you’re meeting student needs early on.

Advice for other school counselors: Slow down and focus on what really matters. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday logistics, and counseling in a pandemic certainly hasn’t been easy! Remember that even if your lesson is a little less than perfect and you aren’t a technology whiz after a week, the most important thing is to show up, listen, and advocate for your students. They won’t remember that typo in your PowerPoint, but they will remember having an attentive, caring adult to help them navigate life’s challenges.

Anjela Schwab

Counselor at Adams 12 Five Star Schools, CO – “Wow, I have been a school counselor for a LONG time. If I told you how long it would give away my age!” Anjela started her counseling career on the collegiate side of education. Then she moved to a small private school but has spent the majority of her career at Adams 12 Five Star Schools. She currently works at Horizon High School which is in the northern suburbs of Denver, CO.

Favorite part of being a school counselor: I love working with my students, but truly the best thing about being a school counselor is graduation. When Pomp and Circumstance starts playing, the families are excited and proud and the students are so happy. I love seeing my students’ faces beaming with pride and accomplishment. Tears well up in my eyes every single year. This one day makes all the dreary, long days in February totally worth it!

Favorite Naviance feature: I use Naviance for so many things! But I would have to say that my favorite feature is the custom survey. I like that I have access to build a survey and get immediate feedback on a lesson or do a needs assessment. And of course I love the analytics that Naviance provides, GO DATA!

Advice for other school counselors: Advice? I guess I would say, use data to drive your instruction. Tell others what you are doing and show the data to your stakeholders. But I think everyone knows those things. The real advice, get some sticky notes with lines or use notecards! Nothing makes you feel more frazzled than seeing your half legible handwriting on a random, crumpled piece of paper! I know it sounds crazy, but trust me, when you write the note on the lined paper it makes you feel organized (even if it is short lived!)

Erica White

Former School Counselor; Vice President of Product, Naviance – Erica has a BS in Psychology and an MS in School Counseling. She has 9 years of experience as a certified CT school counselor in a public high school where her primary responsibilities were college and career counseling, in addition to being a Naviance site administrator.

In 2015, she created RepVisits to increase access to higher education by bringing high school and college admission reps together on one website to schedule appointments. She joined Hobsons in 2017 with the RepVisits acquisition and spent the last four years focused on connecting students with best-fit colleges and leading the Intersect product team through a series of recent launches (SuperMatch, College Profiles, College Events, College Scholarships, and Virtual RepVisits to name a few). Erica transitioned to Naviance this past summer to serve as the VP of Naviance Product.

Favorite part of being a school counselor: Every student was different. We had Wesleyan University in town, which meant that I was working with students of many well educated, global professors who had very high expectations. About 40% of my students received free or reduced lunch and needed additional support when it came to navigating the post-secondary planning process. We also had a Vocational Agriculture Program which brought in students from nearby towns and were often seeking more hands-on career or college opportunities. 

I loved that every student conversation was different. They kept me on my toes and I was continually learning. You never knew what a student was going to say or need when they sat down at your desk; you just knew that whatever it was, you had the opportunity to help. 

Favorite Naviance feature: I’m a bit biased as the creator of RepVisits, so naturally, I would have to say RepVisits. The demand on school counselors only grows so anything that lightens their workload allowing them to spend their time working directly with students is a win. I also love that RepVisits allows colleges that may have never visited a chance to visit; it truly opens the doors to unexpected possibilities for students.

My second favorite feature would be SuperMatch College Search. The college landscape is vast, it doesn’t matter how much experience you have as a school counselor, it’s impossible to know about every single college that exists. The ability to help students easily find schools based on very specific criteria (minors, test optional, LGBTQ+, etc.), quickly view facts about each school listed, and then go directly to that colleges profile for more information is a game changer. 

Advice for other school counselors: Always remember “why” you wanted to be a school counselor. The job of a school counselor isn’t easy. Most of the counselors I know have incredibly high caseloads, a to-do list that only seems to grow, and their concerns about students in crisis stay on their mind long after the day ends. Add a pandemic and virtual learning to the mix and it’s not hard to forget your “why.” However, it is your “why” that makes you an effective counselor. It gives you the energy needed to keep going after a tough day and keeps your passion alive when it comes to helping students.

Take a few minutes to think about your “why” each week –  think about the students who came back to say hello after graduation, the thank you notes you receive at the end of the school year, the times when students take a moment to share their successes (passing a test, winning a soccer game, getting into college), and overall where you made a difference this year.

Topics College and Career Readiness K 12 national counselors week

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