Preschool through 4th grade guidance counselor, Clara B Worth School in Bayville
“I work with over 500 children. I have built some very meaningful relationships over the years. It is all about the relationships with me, not just about the curriculum. Some people think it is unnecessary for an elementary school to have a guidance counselor but you think about it, in our world today, if we are supporting them mentally from preschool up, maybe we can prevent the next tragedy at a school because they have a connection that someone cares about what happens to them. I had a little boy who I worked with and years later, when he was 19, came back and told me, ‘Mrs. P, you are the reason I am still here today, and that I didn’t do drugs. Thank you for being there for me.’ For me that’s one of my shining moments in education.
‘Some of my duties include lunch duties and breakfast duty, and that is where I make some great connections with the students, because I am a rogue guidance counselor. I am the one who is always singing and dancing and giving high fives to kids. Some of these kids come from homes where nobody is talking to them and nobody is telling them that they believe in them. That’s where I come in: to make sure they know that the school cares about them, and that I believe in them. I am fortunate to be able to support children academically and emotionally.
“I do something called ‘The Lunch Bunch,’ where students will meet with me for lunch and we will play games and talk. I try to catch children doing the right thing and then they get to bring a few friends to lunch. I get to build rapport with the children and they are like rock stars to their friends because they get to have lunch with their friends in a quiet, safe place.
“My role with the parents is that I am there to support them. They are doing the best they can with what they have. When you are in crisis with a child or family, I can provide outside resources, I have counseling resources that I can send to the house. I support them any way that I can. But the support doesn’t happen in isolation. This is a team effort with the parents, the community and the teachers and administrators, all of us working together. Whatever we can do to help the families, we will do it.
“There is a family in town whose 13 year old daughter died three years ago and we as a community took on this family and we fundraised with them as they started a non-profit for children with cancer, called Emiliana’s Hope (Link here:https://www.emilianashope.com). Just two weeks ago the father died and we as a school community are supporting this family. Currently we are running a lemonade stand for three weeks to help raise money to fight pediatric cancer. This is a community all working together to make the world a better place, one kid at a time.
“My mother died when I was 22. She was sick since I was 9 years old. Between that, the house fire we had, my daughter getting Lyme disease, getting flooded from Sandy and having to raise our house with hurricane Sandy, I have known adversity. My adversity has given me an even deeper awareness of what other kids can be going through. If I can make one child’s life better today, then I have done my job.”