HB 381: Grow Your Own Teacher and School Counselor focuses on scholarship opportunities to strengthen the teacher and school counselor pipelines in Utah. The Grow Your Own Teacher and School Counselor Pipeline Program is a competitive grant program created to provide funding to LEAs to award scholarships to paraprofessionals, school counselor assistants, and school counselor interns for education and training to become licensed teachers or licensed school counselors. The pathway options for school counselor candidates are as follows:
Route 1- School Counselor Assistant: Candidates for this route would be enrolled in a bachelor’s degree in a related field and are committed to earning a master’s degree in school counseling. Stipends would be provided for completing practicum hours in a school counseling setting. Scholarship opportunities would be provided to those qualifying through application to continue their education in school counseling.
Route 2 – School Counselor Intern: Cohorts of candidates for this route shall commit to a full year, paid internship experience.
Creating a system that integrates and embeds pre-service candidates into the education workforce early and through their preparation program would:
School Counseling Program Specialist
Utah State Board of Education
The Utah School Counseling Association has publicly announced their opposition to HB 299. We wanted to inform you of what the bill says and why we as an association took a stance against it.
HB 299 is a bill currently being talked about in the legislative session that would create a one-year pilot program to address mental health in schools. The bill itself would create a one-year pilot program meant to provide training and education on mental health to selected local education associations (LEAs). The State Board of Education would then be tasked with creating criteria for evaluating programs interested in implementing these pilot programs in our school district and choose up to 6 LEAs to participate in the pilot program. The funding for this program would be allocated just one time for the 1-year of the pilot program.
This program initially sounds like a great opportunity to help support our counselors that are serving in more rural school districts, but as you get further into the details of the bill and the behind the scenes for the creation of this bill USCA has some major concerns, that we feel need to be dealt with prior to giving our support or changing our stance on this bill. Our concerns for the bill include:
Did you wake up this morning thinking, “I really want to advocate today?” Most educators do not start their careers thinking that a day at the capitol for a legislative session or advocating for school counseling positions at a state school board meeting is part of their job description. I am sure many of us are even unaware of the great impact we can have by making an impression in a committee hearing or with a state representative. However, doing these things is integral to how we, as educators, do our job.
Many times, well-intentioned legislators take on a bill not knowing every facet of the bill or how it impacts the way that we meet the needs of our students. Often, boots on the ground are quick to blame when something goes awry, but how many are solution-focused with suggestions and support? Legislators are not always educational experts, so they are tasked with building a small circle of trusted advisers who are experts in the field. This makes it necessary that we network, build relationships, and become the trusted experts they turn to when they need to understand the context and impact of any bill crossing their desks.
Reaching out to your representatives may seem scary and intimidating at first, but after doing it a few times, I realized that they are just people, like me, who want to do a great job and better the lives of those they serve. Sound familiar? Advocating for students and our value as partners in education validates that representatives really do want to hear from their constituents and want more information on what they can do to help people in the State of Utah. If you are uncomfortable talking to your legislators by yourself, find an advocacy buddy. Brainstorm ways to reach out, proof each other’s emails for content, and support one another if you reach out to talk to a representative. If you don’t know who to ask, send me an email. I’d love to be your partner in effective change! I am encouraging you all to think about becoming a UEA Policy Ambassador or joining UEA for their Educators Day on the Hill. These are also great steps to finding those supports that will help you feel more comfortably engaged.
At the start of my journey, as a UEA Policy Ambassador, I was sure I would not follow through with meeting or having any discussions with my representatives, because I get major anxiety when I am talking to people that I perceive to have more power. However, in my role as the President-Elect of the Utah School Counselor Association (USCA) I was tasked by my President to meet with legislators as your representative. I quickly realized that I was not speaking for me, but channeling the collective voice of our profession. I continue to reach out now, inspired by you, our profession, and our students. Once I realized that our representatives were just people who are inspired to serve and do a great job, I quickly realized that one of those representatives could be me! Today, I am contemplating adding my name as a candidate to fill a vacant seat on our State School Board or running for election in 2022. Thank you for allowing me to represent you and I will continue to look for ways to promote our profession, so that the educational experience of every student in Utah is enhanced by having incredible access to their school counselor.
UEA Policy Ambassador
Kearns High School Counselor
The American School Counselor Association had and AMAZING Professional Development on February 2nd for National School Counselor Week that put a spark in me to advocate more for our profession and thought you would love to watch it too!
At the beginning of my endeavor as a UEA Policy Ambassador, I was intimidated, naïve and completely scared out of my mind. So why did I volunteer for this? I had an epiphany that most of our political leaders really wanted to do the right thing, however, they were expected to be an expert in so many things. How could they possibly know what the right thing was when it came to work that they didn’t do every day? I wanted to be someone in their inner circle that they could reach out to and talk through issues that were being discussed. I wanted to become a person that they could rely on for times when items were out of their element but were completely in mine. Mostly, I wanted these representatives to know that I was someone who was willing to talk and listen through the issues that affect me and the work I do with students. I wanted to be “in the room where it happens.”
So, I put my toe in and started to learn the process. I began with introducing myself – just like I would if I were meeting a new student in my office. I even used this tactic at the local level with my school board representative. What I have learned is that those I reached out to were eager, yes eager, to hear my perspective. They wanted to hear what I had to say and valued my opinion. I even have the green light from an individual to text anytime because my insight is valued and appreciated – a luxury this person said is not granted to everyone.
Are we best friends? No. Not yet. But I know the seeds of a partnership have been planted and this can happen for you too! Because at the end of the day we all want the same thing – what is best for our students! Start with your strengths. If you know case law in and out, use that approach. If you know how to build relationships, work that angle. Find a bill that interests you, or reach out to your representative and say, ‘hey, I voted for you! I’d like to meet you and see how we can work together to support our students.’
Just jump in and we’ll be at the table in the room where these decisions are made.
School Counselor @ Copper Mountain Middle School
UEA Policy Ambassador
Educator is currently synonymous with the word teacher, but there are so many more stakeholders in a school building that impact our students’ education. Over the course of the last few decades, as we have seen the impact that the evolution from guidance counselor to school counselor with the implementation of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) national model, school counselors are continuing to become noticed and valued professionals. While we have made strides, we must continue to advocate, innovate and collaborate with other school-based specialists to positively promote our impact for the betterment of Utah’s students.
It is with this collaborative mindset that school-based specialist associations across the state have come together to create the Utah Coalition of School-Based Specialists (UCSS). The UCSS was born from the realization that as professionals in the workplace, particularly schools, we are frequently working closely together as a team to support students. It is only natural that our organizations would work together as a continuation of that teamwork. The adage, "we get more done together than we do apart," rings true for educators and those who work in the more itinerant education support roles.
United we stand to create change, empower our organizations, and best support our members and their students. Our current goals include trying to reduce ratios for all school-based specialists to match their national association guidelines, organize and host a collaborative conference that targets all school-based specialists, and to provide diversified training opportunities for members of all our organizations. We hope that our members and associations can work together to get more involved with legislature and to contact their representatives.
High School Counselor
Kearns High School
Time and time again it seems educators hear the following statement: “Keep politics out of the classroom!” Many outside of our profession expect us to hold a neutral position on all things political, and believe that politics and teaching do not go hand in hand. Some of us may agree with that sentiment, others may strongly oppose.
Enter the 2020-2021 school year. As we have all seen, this year has been one of the most politically charged, dividing times we have experienced as educators. We’ve seen COVID completely change the structure of our school and social communities, watched and stood with those demanding equality in our country and even witnessed an attack on our nation’s capital. As an adult I have struggled to process these events and how they affect me.
Our students are engaged in the same media that we are and are, in turn, grappling with the same resulting anxiety and stress. I have found myself, like many other educators, wondering how to best talk about these sensitive political topics with my students. Should I say nothing at all and hope it blows over? What if I take an oppositional stance? Will this topic lead to angry parent emails?
My biggest takeaway is this: not talking and caring about politics in our classrooms and schools is a direct disservice to our students. We owe them the opportunity to process, understand and take action regarding current events in our country. Here is a link to Teaching Tolerance, a website I have found to be extremely helpful this year. I hope you find use for it as well.
So where do we start? Navigating the political sphere in regards to our classrooms is something that is ever changing. We constantly need to adapt and switch gears to make sure we are addressing these critical topics. Maybe the first step for you is joining your local union. Or perhaps you’d like to start integrating more conversation about current issues in your classrooms. The first step for me was becoming a Policy Ambassador with UEA. I have learned more than I would have ever expected about the legislative process and how it impacts our schools. If you are a fellow educator, I urge you to take a small step this week to take some political action that will impact your students, big or small.
As an educator your job is political. Every year education bills are presented, many of which have a direct effect on your district, school and/or classroom. That is why it is important to pay attention to the education bills being discussed during the Utah legislative session and let your local house and senate representative know how you feel about the bills and hold them accountable for how they vote.
6th Grade Teacher
Diamond Ridge Elementary School
UEA Policy Ambassador
For our 1st real post we just wanted to give you some tips to remember.
Starting this school year, the Board of USCA would really like to keep you in the loop of what is going on in the Legislative Session. USCA is going to be watching the sessions from the sessions, reaching out to legislators, and trying to have some School Counselor influence on bills that are being brought up in the 2021 Legislative Session.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Legislative Process we will also be posting about how to get involved, details of how the process works, and how to get involved and make a difference in the School Counseling Profession Statewide. The more people that we can get involved and contacting their Senators and Representatives the more successful we can be for School Counselors Statewide! If you have any questions about what this blog is for or how to get involved please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.