It is hard to for me to imagine finding a more enjoyable, challenging, and fulfilling career than as a school counselor. I get to spend 85 percent of my day directly working with students and their families by helping them prepare for all that life could throw their way.

I have always had a passion for working with young people, but when I first started college at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, I thought I might burn myself out. I volunteered as a tutor at a local elementary school, worked as a direct service provider for young adults with developmental disabilities and took an internship at a local alternative school. Instead of burning out, I became more energized and passionate about working with kids. Choosing to move west and pursue a degree that would allow me to follow my passion was one of the best decisions of my life.

Too few men in the room

After enrolling in my graduate program at Montana State University in Bozeman, I quickly became more aware of what school counselors really do, and the critical role we play in education. I also noticed I was only one of two or three men in most of my classes. I think for a variety of reasons, many of them stereotypical, men have avoided the counseling field because society has historically said:

  1. Men don’t talk about their emotions
  2. Men are not nurturing
  3. Men don’t cry
  4. Men don’t need help

These stereotypes occurred to me once, as well. But as elementary school vice president for the Montana School Counselor Association, I am responsible for confronting these inaccuracies. All students, especially boys and young men, need to have their experiences and emotions validated and to understand it’s okay to feel something other than apathy or anger. 

How I'm helping

As a school counselor at an elementary school in rural Montana, I work to develop, implement and evaluate my comprehensive school counseling program, based on the American School Counselor National Model. It's designed to fit the wide-ranging and complicated challenges students face, and often requires significant creativity in designing effective programs and interventions. 

I work with some incredibly resilient kids. I am sometimes awestruck at the problems and concerns students are facing on a daily basis: unexpected lockdown drills, technology and social media pressures, increasing suicidal ideation and self-harm behavior, truancy and poverty to name just a few. 

I am fortunate to be surrounded by educators who partner with me to implement programs and interventions to address these needs. These might include meeting with students individually or in small groups, coordinating a meaningful work program, implementing a mentoring experience, running down the hallway to celebrate great behavior or organizing a March Madness-style attendance challenge. Our students’ needs are complex and diverse, and we need creative, evidenced-based ideas to help address them.

Today’s school counselors are in unique positions to focus on the social and emotional, academic and college and career readiness of all students. Despite the sometimes-overwhelming caseload, unending list of new concerns and too-frequent heartbreaking stories, I have never been more grateful and honored to serve as a school counselor.