When Bethlehem Central Teachers Association member Carla Young found out she’d been named the 2023 New York State School Counselor of the year, she was skeptical.
“I didn’t know I’d been nominated,” said Young, a Bethlehem Middle School counselor, whose name had been placed in the running by a group of co-workers. “When I got the email, I thought it was a scam.”
But it was no scam. Recognizing Young’s commitment to her profession and to her students, Bethlehem High School counselor Darnell Douglas, a former graduate student of Young’s at Russell Sage College, where she teaches as an adjunct, spearheaded the nomination.
“Carla educates herself on challenges faced by students, school counselors, guardians and all other stakeholders,” wrote Douglas in the nomination form he submitted on behalf of Bethlehem’s K-12 counseling team. “[She] ensures the work remains student-centered at all times.”
Given by the New York State School Counselor Association, the School Counselor of the Year Award recognizes school counselors who lead within their profession and advocate for students by helping them address academic, social-emotional and career development needs. School counselors focus on prevention rather than reaction when it comes to student behaviors, and work with students more as educators than traditional counselors.
As the New York state winner Young will work on projects for submission to the American School Counselor Association, NYSSCA’s national affiliate, and travel to Washington D.C. to meet with fellow state honorees for ASCA’s School Counselor of the Year Award announcement this spring. National School Counseling Week runs Feb. 5–9; Young discussed her goals for the year ahead.
One is raising awareness about the professional standards outlined by the ASCA. Although the national organization provides ethical and professional standards to guide school counselors in their work, they’re not widely known, she explained.
“Following ASCA guidelines pulls us into alignment and ensures that all students receive the same type of services,” said Young who has presented at several NYSSCA conferences and highlights the guidelines as part of her graduate teaching. “A wide range of professional support is also available to school counselors through the ASCA, including peer-reviewed journal articles and webinars.”
Teaching students about healthy relationships is another focus. “The book Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee is a great way to discuss relationship boundaries with middle schoolers,” said Young explaining that the publication centers on a middle school girl who is subject to uncomfortable and unwanted attention from boys in her class. “Students need to be aware of personal boundaries, how to decode situational meanings and be able to pick up on social cues such as eye contact and tone of voice.”
She also uses a goldfish cracker exercise to illustrate boundary setting. “I give them goldfish and walk around the classroom taking their crackers as I talk,” she said noting that students’ reactions run the gamut from outrage to acceptance. “It leads to a discussion about personal boundaries and how to communicate those boundaries.”
Young appreciates being recognized and looks forward to the year ahead. “I feel very honored to receive this award,” she said. “That a former student nominated me makes it extra special.”
For National School Counseling Week materials, or to learn more about the American School Counseling Association, visit schoolcounselor.org.