Arkansas School Counselor of the Year Christy English shares a hilarious story of the best kindergarten graduation ever (which includes a zebra and a gorilla) and why advocating for your role as a professional school counselor can make a world of difference.
About Christy English
Mrs. Christy English, Ed.S, is the Professional School Counselor at Rose Bud Elementary School in central Arkansas and also the Arkansas School Counselor of the Year. Christy has worked in education for 20 years, 10 years as a school counselor, and is the proud mom of two boys, one Pugapoo (Pooh La Rue the Pugapoo, the school’s Therapy Dog), and one cat “who thinks she is a lioness.”
We Want to Hear from You!
Inspiring School Counselors is available on these podcast apps and others. If you can’t find the podcast on your favorite app, let us know and we’ll make sure we get there. If you prefer to listen in your browser, visit https://inspiresuccess.org/podcast every week for a new episode. For new episode notifications and more, follow Inspire Success on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
A rough transcript follows.
Hi everyone and welcome to Summer or the Nearness of Summer if you’re still working. We so appreciate you joining us for another Inspiring School counselor’s podcast. I’m Matt Flack and I promise you’ll have a great time listening today to our own Aimee Portteus, as she talks with the Arkansas School Counselor of the Year, Christie English.
If I understand correctly, you are a school counselor of the year, is that right?
I am for Arkansas. I am the state school counselor of the year for Arkansas. Very honored.
Can you tell us a little bit about that?
My principal that I’ve had for about three or four or five years, she has recommended me for my district for about four or five years. And she keeps sending it to the wrong district. Like cuz we’re divided into little districts in our state and she sent it to the wrong district and I’m like, I’m not in that district. So she’d been, it would get rejected by the time it got sent back to the right district, they were like, we’ve already picked somebody. Yeah. So I felt so bad for her that I was just like, I emailed ahead and I was like, okay, I’m just gonna tell you that she’s gonna send this email and this is where it needs to go. And so I got recognized as the, of course our district and then went on in elementary school Council of the year and then, um, the state overall school counselor of the year.
Can you, can you share a story or two about a memorable experience that you’ve had with a student in your career?
Oh, let’s see. Um, we had the most exciting kindergarten graduation this year. It, I just, we had, we had a jungle theme and I tried to talk to kindergarten teachers. I said, Hey, I think we need to play Welcome to the Jungle. I think that just opens it up for this class. But they, they denied that, you know, guns N Roses was a little much, I think for kindergarten graduation and I get that now, but I just thought it was very appropriate. So we had kindergarten graduation and jungle theme and one of our churches were, were so sweet that they donated their vacation Bible school stuff for this year. So the kids kind of got a preview of vacation Bible school too. So hey, we’re doing all kinds of things there, but they, they’re giant, um, fold out, cut out cardboard animals, you know. And so we had jungle animals around in kindergarten set in front of ’em.
And so, um, we had it done in 30 minutes, which is a, you know, act of God itself. We had it all shut down. The principal and I were talking, we turned, and there is one of the big high school, I mean not a little high schooler, like, he’s like just a giant kid anyway, and there he goes with a life size zebra up the stairs of the auditorium leaving with the zebra. And I’m like, you can’t leave with Ms. Connie Zebra. So I have to, I’m like, kid, no. I shadow his name. I said, bring zebra back. And he brings, I said, what are you doing with Zebra? And he said, well, I was, that guy said I could have it. I said, what guy said you could have it, the guy with the gorilla. We look and gorilla’s gone. So then the principal has to go down there and say, ladies and gentlemen to all these kindergarten parents, they’re all taking pictures and you know, we’re trying to be all professional.
Whoever stole our giant gorilla, please bring that back. It belongs to the church. And so Miss Connie is our kindergarten aide and you don’t mess with Miss Connie when you, you don’t steal gorillas on her watch. Miss Connie takes off running after this gorilla and this guy, and he’s a senior. What he is, he’s a senior that graduated and thought it’d be funny. And so he ta he takes it and gets in his car and the gorilla and the, the guy and the boy drive by Miss Connie, well Miss Connie is hot and then she realizes she knows this boy’s mama. So then she gets on the phone and starts calling the mama. Anyway, the gorilla came back and he went back into the box and I’m, we finally, the sister brought it back cuz the boy thought he’s not coming back and bringing that back to Miss Connie. Cause he knew Miss Connie, she would get him. And so, but the gorilla did come back and that was the most entertaining kindergarten graduation I’ve had in 10 years. It was the best other than the welcome to tell you
That you have brought a new definition to comprehensive school counseling. I dunno that chasing gorillas is anything I’ve ever had to do!
<laugh>. And why the kid thought the giant zebra would go up the stairs and nobody would notice a life size zebra going up the stairs. I I’m really questioning our education system here, <laugh>
You know, all of my career. I said as soon as I retired I was gonna write a book called You did what? <laugh>, I think you have a chapter in you did what <laugh> I
I’m telling you it’s something every day. Every day. <laugh>.
Absolutely. I have really appreciated talking to you today. Is there anything that you would like to share with our listeners that we haven’t had a chance to talk about?
The reason I ended up school counselor, um, one of the things that they asked my biggest accomplishment in that was, um, several years ago I had a principal who wanted me to spend my time on like administrative task along with being a full-time school counselor of, at that time it was right at 450 kids. Aside from doing all the duties that combine with that, he would be the ESL teacher of record, be the e ESL, um, coordinator, be the parent involvement coordinator, be the testing coordinator. And I was just like, you know, how do you have time to spend on school counseling duties? And he wanted me to report that I did spend that amount of time on school counseling duty cuz he said, well, some of this ESL stuff and his parent involvement, all that school counseling. I’m like, it’s not though. It’s not. And I’m having, and I got pulled out of a meeting with a child and her parent, it was a suicide assessment. She was wanting to kill herself. So I guess it wouldn’t even be an assessment. It was like she was telling, we were talking about what she needed to do to get help. And my superintendent came down and pulled me outta that meeting and said, I need you to come te count and test right now. And I’m like, I have, it doesn’t matter. I need, they, they need you over there to count tests. And so I had to leave that meeting to go count tests. It was such a crazy year. And, um, so when I reported that the principal got upset that I didn’t report that I spent all that time on school counseling, I’m like, there’s no way. And then that’s when I went on improvement plan.
I had to have, um, I had mid-year abuse and all this. He got me on things like, because I read, um, Dr. Sue’s Dip Endorphin Day. He said, I mispronounced the title of the book, but I’m like, who knows how to pronounce half Dr. Sue the stuff, you know, <laugh>. But, um, I had a first grader correct me and say, I think it was deaf and duper day. And I’m like, well, it could be. And so, and he does me like big points on that. And I mean, it was just crazy stuff. I mean, it was by God’s grace. I didn’t lose my job that year just because he was so looking for everything and I’m not that good.
There was one email that he had sent that said something like, you know, I want, oh, he wanted me to give up all the names of the students that I saw and what I saw ’em for. He wanted to know every student that I saw and how much time I spent with each one of those students. And, um, I told him I didn’t think that was legal. I said, I’m not sure I can do that because that means you want to, that means that that’s kid’s confidentiality. Is that even, you know, is that even ethically okay? He took that as I wasn’t gonna do it. And so he had told somebody, um, in the office, I’m fixing to fire her. Well, he went in to come fire me and um, I was teaching a lesson and he didn’t, I guess he didn’t wanna pull me in front of the kids and so he had to leave to drive his bus and so he wasn’t able to get me.
So in the afternoon I replied back and said, I haven’t heard back from you, but I’ll let you know I will do whatever it is that you asked me to do. However, I am concerned about this. And by sending that, that freed me from being like I was being, um, obstinate and not following his orders. I wasn’t a member of ASCO when that happened, but I did join NEA and um, they got a lawyer and you know, and they fought, we fought it, they didn’t, he never went to court, you know, and, um, everything was, he had to all that was not gone. All those bad things. They were like, no, this, we’re not doing this. And he ended up getting demoted down to assistant principal. So, he’s not even here anymore. He’s long gone. He had like two more years to retirement. They put him as a vice principal for two years and then he was gone. So
Counselors would be to make sure that you’re documenting
Document. And they said that is, that is they said, and I hate it. Document, documenting time takes support. And I wish there was a quick way to do it, but I don’t know a quick way and I’ve, I’ve got it all and it’s still not an easy thing to do.
But it sounds like you’re experience would lead to that. It’s a good idea to have those things.
Yeah, they, if it wasn’t for my documentation, I would not have won that. And now we have a new comprehensive counseling law. We have to turn in our plans at the beginning of the school year to show how much time and everything that we’re doing, all of our duties and all that. So clear transparency. So they know transparency, so they know our duties. And we have 90% now we can spend on counseling. 90%. So that was that, uh, 90%. So, wow. Yes. Praise the Lord.
So direct to direct services, 90%?
Yes. Which is higher than ASCA’s recommendation. And that is, it is incredible. It’s wonderful. So I get to actually spend time with these kids instead of in front of, you know, a desk or with paperwork. I get to be with the kids.
That’s awesome. Well, I’m so grateful that we had some time to talk together and I would love to be in your school for just a minute and see how you handle kids. It sounds like it’s a good place.
We have a lot of fun.
<laugh>, I would not steal your gorilla, I promise. <laugh>.
Well, that’s a good thing. I’m glad I, you know, and if you do, I will have to tell Ms. Connie and she will chase you down
That is just so fun to listen to. Thanks, Christy and Aimee. You can find previous Inspiring School Counselors podcasts on our Inspire Success website, which is, are you ready? Inspiresuccess.org/podcast. Not difficult at all to remember: inspiresuccess.org/podcast. Hey, thanks again for listening and I hope you’ll join us again next time. So long.