Janesville39.6°

Counseling program puts spotlight on students’strengths

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January 19, 2008
— Anne Landis’ office at Turtle Creek Elementary School often wasn’t a place where students and parents cried tears of joy.

Now it is.


The Delavan-Darien School District is implementing a comprehensive counseling program that has students and parents taking stock of the student’s strengths and talking about how to build on them.


“Some of them, I don’t know if they’ve ever heard it before,” Landis said.


The positive conversations, she said, have brought “happy tears.”


Dan Weast, director of pupil services, said the program is simple. Every student has strengths, and it’s the job of counselors, teachers and parents to help them realize those strengths and use them to reach their goals.


It starts with their schoolwork.


“We are convinced that, in time, this program will be instrumental in helping all students make the most of their education,” Weast said.


The district’s program is proactive rather than reactive.


“We’re trying to highlight the positive things ... before the deficits in their lives take over,” said Kim Westergaard, a counselor at Delavan-Darien High School.


That’s why the district is targeting its fifth-, eighth- and 10th-graders as it begins one-on-one conferences for students, parents and counselors to discuss the student’s strengths and goals.


“They take an ownership of their education that way,” Landis said.


The program “fully envelopes” students because it tackles their academic, social and emotional needs, said Troy Stelzer, a counselor at Phoenix Middle School.


Too often, counseling services are given only to students who are struggling, whether it is in school or on the playground. The new program reaches all students, “no matter what their issues are,” said Donna Sorensen, principal of Wileman Elementary School.


That isn’t to say the students who need old-fashioned support won’t be able to find it.


“When that happens, we are there for the students,” Weast said.


And because the counselors are seeing so many more students on a regular basis through the conferences, they have a better understanding of each student’s situation.


“They’re not starting from scratch,” said Mike Cipriano, principal of Delavan-Darien High School.



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