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South St. Paul School Counselors Support All Students

South St. Paul School Counselors provide support to students in need. Licensed School Counselors are uniquely qualified to address all students’ academic, career, and social/emotional development needs by designing, implementing, evaluating, and enhancing a comprehensive school counseling program that promotes and enhances student success. The role of School Counselors has grown over the years, especially post-pandemic when students' social and emotional needs have risen dramatically. The Elementary Schools, Middle, and High School all have different counseling needs and each has their own school counseling program structure.

elementary counselor classroom lesson

Reaching all students

At all levels districtwide, there are four ways the counselor programs reach students:

  • Schoolwide programs
  • Classroom lessons
  • Group counseling
  • One-on-one sessions

Schoolwide programs allow the counselors to reach all students where they are. Some examples of schoolwide programs include anti-bullying or monthly wellness initiatives. These types of programs are meant to introduce a theme and get the conversations started. They may also introduce a topic to students who may not have otherwise been exposed to it. 

Classroom lessons hone in on a more specific topic that allows a larger group of students to dive deeper into different subject areas. They include lessons on things like conflict resolution, focus, emotion management, and self regulation skills. The students are then able to practice those skills in their classroom setting.

Group counseling focuses on more specific areas such as relationship skills and conflict resolution between friends. Ongoing small group support can include students with commonalities like new to the school students or students with different types of anxiety. Students can feel comfortable being around like-minded peers who share similar experiences and feelings. The focus is to give students the opportunity to build their confidence in a safe setting with others they trust and learn skills to be more successful in those specific areas.  

One-on-one sessions are what most people think of when they hear school counselors. Some students only need one or two sessions to work through a current situation, while others may need ongoing support. Needs can range anywhere from help building academic achievement strategies to problems at home that impact their school day. 

Another way School Counselors support students is in the area of transitions. School Counselors support new students coming into South St. Paul Schools to help them with the transition to a new school. They also support students during transition grades, from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school. Overall, helping them understand and cope with the anxieties and better prepare them for what the next grade level may bring.

middle school counselor checks in with student during lunch

How can a student receive help?

All of the school counselors say their main goal is to be accessible to all students. Lincoln Center Counselor Heather Gysbers says, “We want every student to know who we are and that we are available to them when they are in need.” Middle and high school counselors say they spend passing time in the hallways and visit classrooms so students recognize and get to know them. Middle School Counselor Jim Beirma says, “It’s important for students to see us as their champions and feel comfortable coming to one of us when they need support.”

While self-referral is important, most students receive help because a staff or family member recognizes the need. One of the most common is from a teacher or staff member noticing a change in a student’s behavior, grades, or attendance. High school counselors, Jalena Maric and Jenna Kvalheim, say the BARR Program (Building Assets, Reducing Risks) has helped staff identify students that may need extra support. At BARR meetings, staff discuss students from a strength-based perspective to identify struggling students and effective interventions, which may lead to a school counselor referral.

The student’s family can also reach out to the school administration and ask to have their student meet with a school counselor. Middle School Counselor Brooke Wood says a large part of their job is to build relationships and partner with families. She says, “It’s important for families to know that we’re working in partnership with them, the teachers, and other school staff. We want them to know they are not alone, it’s really a collaboration of everyone working together.”

What’s Next for SSPPS School Counseling?

School Counselors at all SSPPS locations agree there’s a lot of potential growth for the programs. Gysbers says she would love to see the elementary counseling program grow with things such as digital curriculum for the large group lessons and family engagement workshop opportunities. She says, “There are so many ways we can reach students where they’re at, it would be great to connect with each student in a way that’s impactful for them long term.”

Maric and Kvalheim say they are currently looking for ways they can collaborate more with the systems and resources currently available. “We are lucky to have an admin team that understands what our role is and is supportive in what we’re doing,” says Kvalheim, “Because we have a supportive admin team, we’re going to be able to build a strong program that delivers the support our students need.”

SSPPS School Counselors Webpage

  • HS
  • Kaposia
  • Lincoln
  • MS