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Counselors Play Key Role in Students’ Lives

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School counselors offer a wide range of services beyond helping students choose classes and navigate the college application process. West Des Moines Community Schools offers programs and activities through its Counseling Department to help students build self-esteem, prevent bullying, and make healthy life choices.

With a counselor at each elementary building, two at each of the junior-high schools, one at Walnut Creek Campus, and seven at Valley High School, there’s always support available to help students and their parents meet a challenge. Counselors ensure students are meeting curriculum benchmarks along with personal and scholastic goals. They also provide emotional support and step forward in a crisis to meet students’ needs.

Counselors at the elementary level play a unique role in students’ growth. They introduce children to the district’s program of support and help young children take their first steps toward self-worth, personal safety, and more. To celebrate National School Counseling Week, we asked Westridge counselor Pattie Klein to share some highlights offered by elementary-building counselors during a recent staff-development meeting.

Q: National School Counseling Week is Feb. 2-6. Do counselors in the district have any special events or activities planned to celebrate or raise awareness of what the district offers?

A: We all have school-wide celebrations in recognition of our school counselors during National School Counseling Week. Every school plans their own celebration so that students and staff can participate.

Q: In the past, there may have been a negative connotation in some students’ minds about being “sent to the counselor’s office.” But today, counselors offer a wider variety of support for students. How have the services offered by counselors evolved over the years?

A: We are an integral part of our buildings and have developed rapport with our students in a way that makes the students more comfortable and willing to seek the support of a counselor. Most students want to have experiences with their school counselor, whether it is in a small group, a new student group, or a lunch bunch!

Q: Do the counselors from across the district work on any special staff development projects? Do they get together to work on issues and create strategies, for example?

A: The elementary counselors have worked together to develop their curriculum, which is developmental, sequential and articulated. We meet as a K-12 group annually, but otherwise do not have time to collaborate; however, we do meet regularly for committee work such as on our District Anti-Bullying Committee.

Q: Are there certain topics that counselors focus on for the various grade levels of elementary students?

A: While additional themes may be covered, these are the core issues addressed at every elementary school in the district:
Kindergarten: Cooperation, feelings, character education, personal safety, career readiness, social skills and manners, self-esteem, social/emotional learning, and learner behaviors.
First grade: Empathy, conflict resolution, and personal safety.
Second grade: Friendship, bullying prevention, and anger management.
Third grade: Bullying prevention, self-esteem and strengths, and personal safety.
Fourth grade: Prejudice, discrimination and diversity, decision making, and bullying prevention.
Fifth grade: Personal safety and digital citizenship, bullying prevention, and loss and change.
Sixth grade: Bullying prevention, study skills, and transitioning to junior high.

For more information on counseling services and programs offered throughout the district, visit the Counseling Department’s web page. Follow the links to a staff directory, resources and details on the district’s programs.