Local school districts recognize counselors
By Haley Schichtl
This week, Feb. 3 to Feb. 7, is National School Counseling Week, so Carroll County school districts are recognizing their counselors for all the hard work they do for the students.
Green Forest Elementary counselor Becky Tharp said she spends time teaching a class of students, but the bulk of her days are spent in one-on-one conversations with them, talking about things like being a good friend, dealing with family issues and making good choices.
“Our sweet kids, they just have to go through so much,” Tharp said. “Maybe they’re having trouble with a brother or sister, maybe they have a parent in jail, maybe they’re dealing with a death in the family, even a dog or a cat. …They just need somebody to talk to, they need somebody to work through all of that and help them.”
Tharp said that although she doesn’t have to deal with as many tough subjects like mental health as the middle and high school counselors do, she still has a lot to do to ensure the kids have a positive upbringing in school.
“Little kids are so impulsive, they don’t think before they say something. So I really try to talk to them about stopping and thinking and making good decisions,” Tharp said. “Just to give them a good foundation as they grow up.”
Tharp said she does classroom guidance lessons with each class every month, where she talks to students about character. There’s a different character word each month, and the school year always starts with “respect,” Tharp said.
“I do different lessons for each grade level, but all on the same topic,” Tharp said. “When they get into third grade, I try to do extra things, like conflict resolution, your reputation. … I really feel like third grade can get it. They understand those concepts.”
Tharp said she also works with a group for students who have lost a parent. She does that in honor of Navy SEAL Tommy Ratzlaff, who was a Green Forest graduate and was killed in Afghanistan in 2011. She said they take the kids to do fun activities, like seeing a movie or going out to eat, rather than focusing on the grief.
“Counseling is very hard. It’s kind of a heavy career. But it’s worth it,” Tharp said. “When you see progress in those kids and you know they’re getting better emotionally, academically, socially, then it makes it so worth it.”
Berryville Middle School counselor Judy Patterson said her duties range from talking with kids who need someone to talk to, talking with their parents and making student schedules, to helping teachers.
“Some of our kids wouldn’t get through the day without someone here they can talk to and that supports them,” Patterson said. “What’s hard is sometimes you can’t help them as much as you would like to.”
Patterson said before counseling at a middle school, she was a high school counselor for 17 years. That job deals a lot more with college readiness, keeping up with credits and helping students find scholarships.
Eureka Springs High School counselor Rachal Hyatt said she loves getting to work one-on-one with students and getting to know them all personally.
“It’s a lot different from elementary and middle school. Here we’re focused on college and careers, getting kids settled with a plan and graduation and what they’re going to do in their post-secondary options,” Hyatt said. “My goal is, you’re not going to leave here unless you have my plan. So that’s my biggest thing as a school counselor, is getting them geared for their next chapter.”
Hyatt said she can refer students to therapists or mental health providers, but school counselors are not therapists themselves.
“They come to us with mental health issues or crisis, and we always hope that we’re a safe space for students to go when they’re in need,” Hyatt said.