It’s all about providing good guidance for the counseling staff at Eisenhower High School. Most students, parents, and even teachers rarely notice how much their lives are touched by the work counselors do behind the scenes. February 7-11 was National School Counseling Week, as declared by the American School Counselor Association.
EHS counselor Alicia Brierton said that the duties assigned to counselors range from dealing with testing information, including things like ACT fee waivers, to meetings with students, parents, and community leaders.
“Regardless of what we have going on, the student is the center of our counseling world,” said Brierton. “Our main role is as a student advocate. This is accomplished by collaborating with administration, discussing concerns with parents and guardians, and sharing with teachers to ensure student success.”
She said annual student enrollment is the counseling office’s greatest undertaking. “I think students would be surprised to find that counselors begin working on enrollment for the next school year in early October, with revisions and updates to the course catalog, requests from teachers on new courses to offer, scheduling, and planning to meet individually with each student. Hours are spent in preparation. I enjoy spending time with each student, as we work together to make plans that go beyond the walls of EHS,” Brierton said.
Counselor Lori Sawyer said the most challenging aspect of being a school counselor is balancing the various duties the job requires, while also being available to meet the students’ academic, social, and emotional needs.
“As counselors, we are responsible for helping students stay on track to graduate in four years,” Sawyer said. “In addition, we make sure that all of the mandatory requirements such as CPR, Personal Financial Literacy, the Citizenship Test, and other requirements are being met along with the graduation requirements. With the laws changing frequently, it is important for us to be knowledgeable of the changes so that we can assist the students. We also help with scholarships, college admissions, the Great Plains Technology Center, and military acceptance as well as many other things.”
Sawyer added that counselors are a resource for students and faculty in need. They can serve as liaisons for resources within and outside of the school.
“Being a counselor requires wearing many hats, being flexible and resourceful,” said Sawyer. “The days can be exhausting as well as rewarding. Our ultimate goal is to be supportive of our students and hopefully helpful in making their future dreams come true.”
For counselor Shawn Green, the most rewarding part of being a school counselor is having the opportunity to interact with and mentor the students. “I love the students. I love hearing their stories,” Green said. “I love it when they enter my presence sad and leave my presence encouraged and smiling. I love, love, love seeing them excited during graduation and knowing that all of my efforts (and threats) were not in vain. I love seeing former students being successful years after they have graduated.”
The EHS counseling office also includes Devon Lewis, the career adviser, who has a slightly more specialized role. “My job as a career adviser is to work parallel with the school counselor. While they are meeting with students to discuss their future, I am there to expose students to possible career opportunities and make those hands-on connections happen. We all want our students to be career-ready, whether they are going to college, trade school, joining the military, or going straight into the workforce,” Lewis said.
For counselor Vickie Baker, being a counselor is a chance to give back to her alma mater. “My sister-in-law, Kathy Reese, was a counselor at MacArthur Middle School. She encouraged me to pursue my master’s degree in education. I never thought I would go back to college, but that’s exactly what I did,” Baker said. “I enrolled at East Central University and finished my degree in May 2001. I was already a teacher in Lawton Public Schools and was fortunate enough to get a counseling job at the beginning of the 2001-2002 school year at Lawton High. As a graduate of Eisenhower High School, I always wanted to come back and work at EHS. That opportunity came in the 2005-2006 school year when I transferred to Ike. I’ve been here ever since. I love being a counselor and I love EHS!”
The members of the counseling staff have to be flexible. They are constantly having to adapt to new situations and problems that don’t have simple solutions.
EHS registrar Heather Spencer said the current pandemic has been challenging. “We were all surprised when COVID began a couple of years ago. Our amazing counseling team collaborated to make a plan for students who are Traditional, Virtual, or both,” she said. “With EHS being flexible about the multiple enrollment options, students are able to seamlessly enroll in different platforms. Each counselor works diligently with every student to ensure success, no matter what option they choose. I am proud to work with such a great team!”