Counselor Appreciation Week is a week to honor the counselors that do so much for our TJ community; they received little celebrations, gifts, and symbols of appreciation.
The first week of February was Counselor Appreciation week. Counselors are a big part of keeping the students safe while they are in and out of school. These staff members have been able to form special bonds with the students who seek their help. At Thomas Jefferson, there are four primary counselors: Jillian Gleason, who is in charge of students with the last names A-D, Maggie Kennedy, who is in charge of students E-L, Erin Thompson, who is in charge of students M-Q and students with IEPs, and Jeremy Anderson, who helps the students R-Z. Rebecca Taylor is new to TJ, and she supports the 8th to 9th grade transitions, which then helps with 9th grade success, and a strong start helps with the rest of high school. The counselors are a big part of the mental health staff at TJ, but they have plenty of help from the rest of the staff, who support them on a daily basis.
The counselors are a very strong team who have developed throughout the different amounts of time they have all been here. Thompson has been at TJ the longest, with thirteen years as a staff member; Anderson has worked here for seven years, and Gleason and Kennedy are currently in their third year at TJ. They have all come to TJ bringing their own loving touch to the students around them. Each counselor came to the idea of being a counselor at different times in their lives. Kennedy and Thompson knew more from the beginning they wanted to be helping people with their job. Thompson knew she wanted something including children. On the other hand, Anderson and Gleason came to the idea a little later in their lives; Anderson was not sure if going back to high school was the smartest choice. In the end, they all agreed that they would not really want to be anything other than the counselor that they have become.
Counselors build relationships with students; they can become part of a family and make a really big difference in a kid’s life. Sometimes, its easy to forget that they are people too, and it is important that they feel appreciated. Like any job, there are ups and downs, but all of them agreed that they find their jobs rewarding. “Being able to be with kids and see the growth over four years, helping them out when they need a little extra love, is one hundred percent rewarding,” said Thompson, which coincided with her other three colleagues, all adding that feeling rewarded is why they come back and do their jobs every day.
Counselors do so much for the community here at TJ, and during Counselor Appreciation Week, they could all agree with the statement made by Anderson when he said, “We are lucky at TJ; we have an administration that values having counselors.” In each interview, all four counselors commended the administration for their appreciation and support. They also all agreed that it can be hard to feel appreciated all the time, but there are always sweet moments of appreciation they get from kids, which feels really good. Being counselors, they help kids cope with stress, especially now during COVID-19, but they are people too, and have to deal with the stresses of everyday life. Sharing how she was coping, Kennedy stated, “a big part of how I get fulfillment out of my job is the small interactions with students, seeing them in the hallway or a quick conversation, and we don’t get that in COVID, but taking time for my mental health too, and practicing what I preach, in the sense, exercising, and getting outside, and reading—making sure I am prioritizing those things to help with being on a screen all day.” The rest of the counselors said that they too were struggling like anybody else, but are blessed with what they do have during the virus.
Counselor Appreciation Week was obviously going to be different for them this week from past years, due to COVID-19. They had all agreed that the mental health staff had exchanged little gifts and they had some fun as a group. Gleason had said that “[participating in] email[s] and phone calls has not been as rewarding as seeing you all, watching you play sports, chaperoning all the dances, but I feel really grateful for the appreciation that has happened this week.” All four counselors said that they missed the little drop-ins from students and seeing them in the hallways, getting little shout-outs. So, whether or not you knew about Counselor Appreciation Week, reach out to your counselor and tell them how much they have helped or impacted your life.