Counselors play important role in local schools

There are many people within educational school systems who are overlooked, though vital.

But perhaps no role is more overlooked by the public than the role of school counselor, and perhaps no aspect of education is under-appreciated more than the counseling that takes place in schools.

The Southeast Missouri School Counselors' Association recently recognized Leigh Ragsdale and Kayleen Shaw for their outstanding contributions to their respective schools, according to a recent story by Marybeth Niederkorn.

Ragsdale, principal at Cape Girardeau's Franklin Elementary School who will be principal at Jefferson Elementary next year, was recognized as School Counseling Advocate of the Year for her work with Central High School, when she was assistant principal in 2016 and 2017. Ragsdale has made a considerable effort to make sure her schools are positive places for children to attend and learn. She also oversaw the Grab and Go program, providing Microwave meals to students for the weekends.

"Everyone gave me a lot of credit, but it was definitely not just me," Ragsdale said. "A lot of people helped make all of those things happen. It's not about one person. It's about everyone on a team, about finding ways to reach kids and help them reach our high expectations."

Kayleen Shaw, guidance counselor at West Lane Elementary School in Jackson, was recognized as Elementary School Counselor of the Year. One of Shaw's current projects is making sure students dealing with trauma are given special consideration.

"Our district is becoming trauma informed," she said, to make sure teachers and staff can meet students on their level and understand and respond appropriately to those who have dealt with traumatic experiences. The entire district is receiving professional development, Shaw said, to work through new research about children and the effects trauma can have on them.

"One thing I really want to say is, I don't do anything differently than the other counselors and teachers and principals I work with every day. I couldn't do what I do without everyone around me," Shaw said.

Congratulations to these two educators. And thank you, for the quiet, behind-the-scenes work that you do to show children that they are important.