By: Bernadette Mathis on June 29th, 2021
Spotlight on School Counseling at PA Virtual
Parents sometimes ask about school counseling, and if their child will receive support in a cyber charter school. The answer is YES! As a k-12 Pennsylvania public school, PA Virtual Charter School has a comprehensive school counseling program. We support students academically, on a social and emotional level, and in college and career planning. Although the themes we address are the same, the programs are delivered differently by counselors across grade levels. Each school counselor provides support in a manner that fits the developmental levels of the students served.
In this blog, we'll explore what the school counselors do at PA Virtual, and the programming we offer our students.
Overview of School Counseling Department
School counselors are highly trained to implement a comprehensive school counseling program. Requirements to become a school counselor include:
- Master’s degree in school counseling or a related field
- State certification as a school counselor
In addition, school counselors must meet continuing education requirements in topics related to their field. As we support students, we strive to maintain the ethical and professional standards set forth by the American School Counselor Association.
Currently, there are seven PA Virtual school counselors working to help ALL students achieve their best in school and their future. There are two counselors at each of the elementary, middle, and high schools. One of our school counselors supports students across all grade levels, k-12. As school counselors, our responsibilities are wide-ranging as we partner with staff, administration, and parents to support student success.
How do we spend our days?
- Working with students individually or in groups
- Talking with parents
- Collaborating with teachers
- Completing tasks relating to student schedules
- Managing student 504 plans
- Leading the effort for each student to learn about the world of work and how to investigate careers that interest them.
Everything we do revolves around supporting individual student success at PA Virtual.
As a department, our ultimate goal is for all students to reach their full academic and social potential with a partnership between the academic teachers, parents, and school counselors. We communicate monthly through newsletters. There are also separate guidance websites for grades K-8 and 9-12 where we post resources and information for all students and families to access.
School counselors focus on supporting students in the areas of academics, social/emotional, and career education and planning. PA Virtual school counselors provide programming to help our students overcome barriers to success they may be experiencing. All students are invited to participate in classroom guidance lessons or presentations through the synchronous or asynchronous model.
When a student’s concern is not relevant to a group setting, they work with their counselor on an individual level. These sessions may occur once or periodically until the concern is resolved.
In times of crisis in a student’s life, PA Virtual school counselors coordinate a plan to help students manage their courses while focusing on the needs of the moment. They communicate with teachers, staff, and administration to create a plan that will work for the student.
As mentioned earlier, guidance programming looks different at the different grade levels. Below, I will share a breakdown of what to expect at each school.
Elementary and Middle School Programming
In PA Virtual’s elementary and middle schools, we offer classroom guidance lessons to address topics relating to character and career education as these are important for ALL students. By going into classrooms, we ensure all synchronous students have had the opportunity to participate in our sessions and learn about the topics highlighted. Asynchronous students may be given an assignment to view the presentation recording and complete the related activity, or they may be invited to join one of the live classroom sessions instead.
- Career Exploration
- Character Education
Some students experience personal difficulties as they go through school. Those with a specific need could choose to join a small group addressing the concern. These are offered on various topics based upon student needs and are designed to help them work through difficulties they are facing. Some examples are:
- Lunch Bunch
- Executive Function Skills
- Friendship Skills
When a student is struggling in a significant way or with an issue that is not being experienced by others, counselors work with them individually. This support can occur in consultation with other professionals involved in the child’s care. Individual support is aimed at meeting a student’s specific needs.
Lastly, the elementary and middle school counselors ensure students are ready for their first day by creating schedules and ordering student materials as students enroll at PA Virtual.
High School Programming
Our High school counselors support their students through:
- Individual and small group meetings
- Classroom and large group presentations
- Making resources available through the High School Counseling newsletter and website
The High School counselors, like the Elementary and Middle School counselors, also focus on strengthening their student's academic, social, and emotional skills while also preparing them to achieve their post-secondary plans, which may include:
- and more
The High School counselors host presentations each month to work with students on all of these topics and share valuable resources throughout the year. Finally, the High School counselors will work directly with each student during the course selection process to help guide students to select courses that align with their abilities, interests, and future plans.
PA Virtual school counselors play an important role in our student’s lives and provide them with important support and services. We work to help all students in their efforts to succeed in school and plan for the future. We are trained to help students work through barriers to their success and refer them to appropriate professionals when their concerns exceed our scope of practice.
Personally, I am honored to have the opportunity to work with students across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Our role, as school counselors at PA Virtual, is very different from those who serve students in a local community. I have learned so much from my students and coworkers who live in areas that are far from my own. I have truly enjoyed getting to know students and their communities across the Commonwealth. I look forward to serving and getting to know others as they come to PA Virtual!
If you would like to learn more about PA Virtual and the support services we offer our families, you can request more information here.
NOTE: This blog was originally published in June 2021, and has been updated for accuracy of content.
About the Author: Bernadette Mathis is a PA Virtual School Counselor.