Wyoming Education Association

Spring 2019

Issue link: https://digital.copcomm.com/i/1095286

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Page 17 of 31

X Member Spotlight X 15 WEA's Amy Mason, Wyoming School Counselor of the Year By Andrea Shipley Being a school counselor comes with it challenges. Surprisingly, one of those challenges is educating others about the changing role of school counselors and how to best use them as powerful resources for students and their families for academic success. "As a profession, we are getting better about promoting what we do, but so many people still don't understand the role of a school counselor. There is a cloud of confusion," Amy Mason, Wyoming School Counselor of the Year and longtime WEA member passionately explained. Many people remember the guidance counselor of the past, but the job and the title have both changed. "We are a resource to students, parents, and staff and part of a team supporting the whole child. We want to help with academic, personal/social, and career growth for all students." Amy started her career as a school counselor in Colorado Springs, Colorado after graduating with her master's degree from the University of Northern Colorado. Lucky for Wyoming, she and her husband, who is also an educator and a WEA member, moved to Thermopolis. She spent 8 years working in Thermopolis and it was during these years in Thermopolis she made a strong relationship with WEA and current SE UniServ Director, Greg Herold and his wife Lisa Herold. The relationship with WEA staff helped her stay engaged in WEA and garner a deeper understanding of the work of the Association. "WEA is a powerful advocate for its members," she refl ected. After her time in Thermopolis, she has held a variety of school counseling positions in Fremont County. Most recently, she is serving as the 7-12 school counselor in Shoshoni. She noted that students in rural communities often face challenges related to access to hands on experiences, variety in course off erings, ability for students to participate in activities/ sports/events outside of the school day, poverty, and expectations to work or help at the family farm/ ranch, but that every community and its students were unique. When asked about the biggest concerns that she has been witnessing in her offi ce, she explained that testing is negatively impacting students. "Overall, I am seeing more and more students coming in with questions and/or concerns about stress and anxiety, mostly relating to academics and standardized testing. Even students as young as third grade have expressed concerns that WYTOPP testing is stressful for them. Students want to do a good job, but they don't always know how to handle the pressure that comes along with the high expectations," she explained. The only silver lining is that, "Kids are starting to get more comfortable talking about their anxiety." However, that is not to say that a visit to the counselor's offi ce is not still stigmatized. She confi rmed that, "Kids still say they can't be seen in the counselor's offi ce." One thing most people may not know about the constraints on school counselors is that on average, in Wyoming, each school counselor is serving nearly 250 students. In some school districts in Wyoming, those numbers are a lot higher. The averages get worse for much of the country. That challenge doesn't stand in the way of Wyoming's school counselors doing their best work for students and deeply relishing their work. Amy Mason, school counselor in Shoshoni and longtime WEA member, was awarded at as this year's School Counselor of the Year for Wyoming.

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