Feb. 5, 2021 - Curtis Herring is one of 56 counselors serving students and parents at Comal ISD campuses. As a counselor at Smithson Valley High School, he has to juggle a variety of challenges on campus.
Herring has been at Smithson Valley for eight years, teaching chemistry, physics and forensic science before deciding he could better serve students in the role of counselor over the last four. Like his fellow counselors, Herring handles class rankings, student schedules, career advising and special events on a daily basis. He also is there to help students who need someone to talk to.
As campuses throughout the district celebrate National School Counseling Week, Feb. 1-5, Herring helps explain the role of school counselors. Here are his responses.
What made you want to be a counselor?
I think being a teacher and seeing a lot of the problems a lot of the kids had, and it wasn’t my place as a teacher to intervene and try to help because there are certain barriers. I was supposed to refer them to a counselor. I just thought that I could have a bigger impact on kids if I chose to pursue counseling. That’s what sparked me – the need that I saw with the students as I was working with them.
What does a typical day entail for a counselor?
Multi-tasking – pretty much every day, and quickly transitioning from one field to another. Right now, my day involves verifying class rank, working with kids who have failed, parent phone calls, student walk-ins – anything going on in their personal life or here at school. If they walk down to see us, we drop what we’re doing and counsel them to help them with their social and emotional needs. We’re also responsible for suicide protocols or non-suicidal self-injury. Any student who may have an outcry on campus, we work through those issues with those students and families. We’re pretty deep in scheduling and course selection right now. Essentially, we do social/emotional counseling, college and career advising and academic counseling.
There are eight counselors on the Smithson Valley campus. How do you all work as a team?
We work really well as a team. With social and emotional counseling and the high-level things, it is almost expected that you are going to consult with someone else and not make a decision in isolation.
We’re also responsible for a lot of the event planning and awards ceremonies. There are certain things we all come together on like planning for graduation or a national merit breakfast. Everyone splits up a role or a job. We’ve identified each of our strengths and weaknesses. Some of us are highly organized and love to work on a spread sheet. Others like to get the balloons and the flowers and order the food.
How much has the pandemic changed your job?
It’s changed it a lot. When you have questions for a kid (on campus), you can call them in and check on them. With kids who are remote, it’s a lot harder to reach them or have the same personal interaction and motivate them over the phone or through a Zoom meeting. Sometimes it makes it hard to just get things done that need to be done. I think we’ve done a great job adjusting to the need, but it has definitely presented challenges.
What tends to be the biggest challenge each day?
The hardest part, in my opinion, is the multitude of things we have to juggle in a given day and meet all of our deadlines, but also make time for a kid that’s having a bad day. You have to drop what you’re doing, work through that process with that student, and hopefully get them to a good place. Then you can circle back and try to meet all of the expectations.
What has changed the most in your role over the last few years?
The influx of students to this area. I think it’s hitting all of our campuses, but specifically the areas around Smithson Valley. It really can strain your resources. Trying to work at the pace our district is growing, I think that’s been the most challenging thing in the last few years.
What is the most satisfying part of your job?
When we get to be a part of seeing a student’s day be a little bit better because of their interaction with us, and you can see their face or their demeanor change before they walk out the door – they come in crying and they leave smiling – that’s the reason we keep doing everything else to have those moments.
Thank you, Counselors, for all you do!
-Smithson Valley High School Counselors pictured from left are Jasmine Wills, Ayanna Bush, Katherine Tolbert, Sara Schroeder, Kristen Guerra, Curtis Herring, Rebecca Franks and Melanie Featherly.
-Smithson Valley High School Counselor Curtis Herring and Student Services Specialist Petra Almanza.