This week is National School Counseling Week highlighting the unique contribution of school counselors within our schools. Today we feature Kerri Cox, preK-12 counselor at Canistota (SD) school district.
Q: Why did you get into teaching?
A reappearing theme in my life is that of a story. As a child, I loved reading stories about people. I was so fascinated by people and their experiences that I also liked writing others’ stories. When I learned more about the field of psychology, I found the study of people and human behavior fascinating as well. I double-majored in psychology and journalism but ultimately felt called to counseling. During my graduate studies, I realized that so many of the problems people experienced were due to a lack of developmental assets in childhood. I knew I was lucky to have been raised in a community with wrap-around support where I was known and cared for by layers of people in my school, community, church and extended family. That realization was the spark that started a fire in me to want to work in a school setting where I could help students prevent problems and learn skills to manage emotions, communicate assertively, problem-solve and make connections with support assets in the school and community. In many ways I’ve felt as though I am teaching students how to be the author of their own stories and how to edit out the parts that aren’t serving them. This option felt familiar and natural since I am the fourth generation in my family to choose a career in education.
Q: How has your year been going?
I am having one of the best years in my 24 years of education! Over the last year I've felt transformed. God has led me to a place where I feel in complete alignment with his calling and his mission for me to "be the light."
Q: How can a church/business/group support you/your classroom/your school?
Sioux Falls is a resource-rich community and there are so many empathetic, compassionate people who donate financially to the dozens or even hundreds of charity programs. From my perspective, the impact of those "hand-outs" does not begin to compare to the impact of people who actively serve others. That whole idea about giving a man a fish or teaching him to fish is spot on! I saw this most clearly when I saw miracles happen through the LSS School-Based Mentor program. While those are not my stories to tell, I still get goosebumps when I recall how church mentors served as the hands and feet of Jesus. The investment of your time and care through mentoring is the most impactful way that a church or organization can bring change.
Ironically, I just created my first Donor's Choose project to help fund resources. I do not have any kind of a budget to purchase supplies and have purchased most of my counseling resources myself over the years. I recognized a need for more hands-on experiential tools to help students who come to school with poor self-regulation skills related to impulse control, emotion management, problem-solving and manners, I decided to ask for help as I have seen other teachers successfully do. If you feel called to help me, this is the link to my Donor's Choose project: shorturl.at/DIPSZ
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I’ve felt honored to walk along students and families during the hardest times in their lives. Sometimes this is dealing with the aftermath of a crisis, grieving the loss of a loved one or coping with complicated situations involving poverty, addiction, abuse and other hardships. For most of my career, these tough situations were balanced by the proactive work with all students and the developmental issues that arise and are more simply resolved. Despite feeling so passionate, I began questioning my purpose when my position evolved into a reactive role when a growing number of students becoming violent and disruptive in the classroom dominated my time since safety is always a priority. I’d leave work daily feeling defeated that so many students with smaller problems weren’t getting help until situations dramatically escalated. I kept pushing forward ever-optimistic that with more time and effort I would eventually get caught-up and meet all the needs. During this time, the Bible verse in Mathew 11 about God's yoke being easy and the burden being light kept showing up in books, sermons, blogs and my devotional. God was whispering to me that I needed to release the heavy burden I was carrying. I ignored the whispers and just kept trying harder until God had to shout to get my attention. Those shouts came in the form of flare-ups of autoimmune diseases that were once managed to being out-of-control and increasingly disabling. After a particularly harsh confrontation and warning by one of my doctors, I reluctantly acknowledged I was powerless to change my situation and that guilt was the heavy burden I needed to release. I accepted God’s invitation to let go and have faith I would be guided and supported to where I can best serve and live in alignment with my values. The answer to this prayer appeared last summer when a former co-worker encouraged me to apply for a Pre-K-12 counseling position that has been an ideal fit for my skills, experience and expertise.
Some organizations who have booked this training