Danville proclaims National School Counseling Week

The city of Danville proclaimed Feb. 1-5 National School Counseling Week at a commission meeting Monday after Danville Independent Schools’ district school wellness counselor Sharon Todd contacted the mayor’s office and requested a proclamation be signed declaring it, and her request was approved.

“More than ever, I believe it is essential to highlight the hard work school counselors do all the time, but especially during the past 10 months,” Todd said in an email. “School counselors always work behind the scenes to care for students’ social/emotional, academic, and career needs. While things have been different during the pandemic, the mission to serve students, staff and community through collaboration has not changed. Bringing awareness about the school counselor’s role will hopefully relieve students and families’ anxiety during this time and in the future.”

According to the American School Counselor Association website and the proclamation read aloud during the commission meeting, the proclamation serves to give the week distinction because school counselors are at both public and private schools “to help students reach their full potential,” because they commit to help students explore their abilities and interests as they “relate to career awareness and development,” they help parents with the growth of their children, they work with educators to help students explore their goals, they seek to utilize community resources to help students, and school counseling programs are considered integral to the educational process.

Todd said she is working with students and district administrators to show gratitude to school counselors and “make the week special.” There will be dress-up days on the hybrid A/B days that week, she said. For Hybrid A days, on Monday, people will wear jerseys to show that school counselors are “part of their team,” she said, and on Tuesday, to show school counselors help them plan for their future, it will be a career dress-up day. The same will be done for Thursday and Friday for Hybrid B days. She said the schools will also record students sharing what they love about their counselors and will play the video for counselors at a monthly meeting on Feb. 3. She will provide a catered meal during the meeting for counselors, too, with social distancing guidelines in place, and she’ll create a Google Form on which staff can write something positive about the counselor in their respective school.

Todd is not currently a school counselor herself, but she advocates for them and was a school counselor for 10 years before she moved into her current position. She is a certified school counselor but also has her mental health license, she said.

“I am in more of a support role now and provide mental health counseling to our students,” she said. “However, I rely on the school counselors in my district for student referrals and support. They know every student and family, and are such a support to me in my current role. They are essential to the work I do to support students. Constant collaboration and communication is essential. We have a great working relationship, and I could not function in my role without their support and expertise.”

There has been a heightened need for school counselors during the COVID-19 pandemic, Todd said, especially as there is an increase in anxiety across the state.

“There seems to be an increased demand for school counselors because of the need for their skill set related to supporting students’ social and emotional needs,” she said. “School counselors have strived to share information with students and guardians to reassure them that support is available if there are mental health concerns.  While they are always on the frontlines and often the first to know of distress students may be experiencing, they are well-versed in attending to the situation and know when to reach out for additional support. They are aware of district resources and community agencies that support students’ mental health needs. The need for collaboration with families and community agencies can never be underestimated.”

She said after hearing from school counselors across the state, to her it seems there has been a focus on meeting mental health needs of students over the past 10 months. She used the phrase “Maslow before Bloom,” which she said is a common phrase in education — it’s usually used to demonstrate how people need basic needs met for academic learning to be achieved. This is in reference to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a psychological theory that shows before self-actualization can be achieved, first physiological, then safety, then belongingness and love, then esteem needs must be met. For example, a student may not be able to focus on school to their full potential if they feel lonely, feel unsafe at home or suffer from food insecurity.

“With students now experiencing virtual learning during the COVID-19 epidemic, school counselors are engaged with students to ensure their basic needs are met and are addressing the mental health needs of students,” she said.

She said she wants school counselors to know the week is dedicated not only to school counselors in the Danville Independent Schools district but also those at other area schools, including the Boyle County Schools district and Kentucky School for the Deaf.

“I admire and respect your relentless dedication to all students,” she said, addressing school counselors. “Your work does not go unnoticed, and you are appreciated! Every day, you make a difference. Happy National School Counseling Week!”