May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we are using this time to spotlight school counselors.
School counselors are primarily responsible for implementing the Texas Model of the Comprehensive School Counseling Program. The purpose is to fully develop each student’s academic, career, personal, and social abilities through four delivery components: responsive services, guidance curriculum, individual planning, and system support. Throughout Region 7, school counselors work tirelessly in their districts to deliver a comprehensive program to their students.
In Harmony ISD, Vanessa Watkins greets her students with a smile as they pass in front of her brightly-colored bulletin board. After 11 years in a second-grade classroom, Vanessa moved into the role in hopes of helping her students in a different way. In this role, she has made guidance curriculum and universal preventions a priority. Moving into a new position comes with challenges, but “The teachers have been so helpful, especially in the beginning, with words of encouragement, offers of support from administration and support staff, and of course, support from Region 7,” says Vanessa. It was during a workshop at Region 7 that Vanessa learned about PREV-NET.
(Vanessa Watkins, Harmony ISD)
Offered through Community Healthcore, PREV-NET is “a coalition in Northeast Texas that focuses on bringing together strong members of the community to reduce and prevent substance use among ages 9-20.” Vanessa attended a training for the PREV-NET in Longview so she would be able to teach the 10-week curriculum to her students. When she arrived at the training, she met school resource officers, licensed professional counselors, and other school staff. She was surprised to find she was the only school counselor in the room!
However, Vanessa says she definitely sees the value of this resource as part of a Comprehensive School Counseling Program. The PREV-NET curriculum starts in the 5th grade. While the primary learning objective is substance abuse prevention, PREV-NET also gives students tools for goal-setting, decision-making, and emotional regulation. The curriculum focuses heavily on strong communication skills and establishing positive relationships. Vanessa says that focusing on social development is an important element in helping kids stand up to peer pressure. When Vanessa visits classrooms, she sees that students are learning new vocabulary to help them stand up for themselves. She says the lessons give students and opportunity to open up, to share, and “get down to the things that are sometimes hard to talk about.”
School counselors are helpers by nature. In Region 7, counselors like Vanessa work with other helpers to ensure the best quality education for their students.
Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May in the United States since 1949. School counselors across Region 7 work diligently to ensure the next generation is healthy.
Find out more about Region 7 ESC on our Professional School Counselor Page.
|Katilyn Woodley works in the Center for State and Federal Programs as a Professional School Counseling Specialist for Region 7 ESC. She also works with the McKinney-Vento and CTE programs for Region 7. She previously served as a classroom teacher and high school counselor in the East Texas area.|
|Dana Harper is an educator with over 20 years of experience. She has served as a classroom teacher, elementary and high school counselor, academic interventionist, and district Director of Counseling and SEL. Her experiences have varied from urban to rural school districts in East, South, Central, and North Texas. She currently serves as a Professional School Counseling Specialist at the Region 7 Service Center in Kilgore.|
Prevention network for North East Texas (prev-net). Community Healthcore. (2022, June 15). Retrieved April 19, 2023, from https://communityhealthcore.com/services/prevention-network-for-north-east-texas-prev-net/
Texas Counseling Association. (2018). The Texas model for Comprehensive School Counseling Programs.