S6E7 - Taqueena Quintana - the Seed Field Podcast

S6 E7: School Counselors Play a Vital Role, Schools Need to Let Them Do Their Jobs

A conversation with Taqueena Quintana about how much school counselors do to support students and schools—and how short staffing and mission creep impact their ability to do this key job.

Episode Notes

The profession of school counseling has evolved over the last forty years to encompass not just academic and career guidance but also social-emotional support for students and the entire school. Yet too often today, the core work of school counselors gets pushed to the side, displaced by demands that they fill in as substitute teachers, substitute principals, and even recess monitors. According to Taqueena Quintana, one of the founders of Antioch’s MA in School Counseling, this is foolish and does long-term harm to well-being across the school. In this interview, we talk with Taqueena about this issue as well as her experiences as a school counselor, the demographic imbalance in the profession, the evolving role of school counselors, ways parents can support them, and much more.

Visit Antioch’s website to learn more about the MA in School Counseling that Taqueena teaches in and helped found.

Learn more about Taqueena’s work on her faculty page

This episode was recorded April 3, 2024 via Riverside.fm and released September April 17, 2024. 

The Seed Field Podcast is produced by Antioch University

Host: Jasper Nighthawk

Editor: Johanna Case

Web Content Coordinator: Jen Mont

Work-Study Interns: Stefanie Paredes, Georgia Bermingham, Grace Kerfman, and Lauren Arienzale.  

A special thanks to Karen Hamilton, Amelia Bryan, and Melinda Garland.

To access a full transcript and find more information about this and other episodes, visit theseedfield.org. To get updates and be notified about future episodes, follow Antioch University on Facebook.

S6E7 Transcript – Taqueena Quintana

[00:03] Jasper Nighthawk: This is the Seed Field Podcast, the show where Antiochians share their knowledge, tell their stories, and come together to win victories for humanity. I’m your host, Jasper Nighthawk, and today, we’re joined by Tequina Quintana for a conversation about the work of school counselors. The role that they play in schools, how important this work is today, and some of the challenges currently being faced by counselors and the students that they serve. As I was preparing for this conversation, I had the experience of learning something new, which is one of my favorite things to have happen. But I learned that my own idea of what school counselors do was outdated. And I think a lot of folks listening to this might also have an outdated idea of school counseling. So in my own life, I went through public schools in small town, rural, northern California in the 90s and 2000s. And what I remember is that I really only had school counselors in high school. And when I was in high school, the counseling office was in charge mostly of approving class schedules. So I remember that as a sophomore, I wanted to skip a science class and go straight to chemistry. And I had to convince my counselor that was a good idea for me. And after that, I became friends with my school counselor. His name was Lars Larson. And we ended up having conversations about preparing for college, what my career might be, what I needed to do to make all of that happen. He really was a guidance counselor. But what I’ve learned today is that school counselors, they still focus on career and college readiness. But increasingly, they also focus on social emotional support for students. And I think this is a massive and important shift. I know in my own life, mental health care has made an enormous difference for me. And I could have used somebody looking out for me on a brain level when I was a kid, when I was struggling with bullying, and then later with depression and anxiety, which are really scary when you’re a kid. I never received any mental health care till I was well into my 20s. And when I did start seeing a therapist, I had this really frustrated feeling of, I could have used this decades ago when I was a kid. So I’m really glad to know that school counseling is changing in this way. But I’ve also come to see that I’m ignorant in a lot of ways of what school counselors do today. And I wanna know more about this. So to help answer these questions, I’m really lucky to be joined today by Tequina Quintana. Tequina is an associate professor in Antioch University’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. And she also serves as the program director of student support for that program. Before she completed her doctorate, Tequina was herself a school counselor. And here at Antioch, she’s been a key part of the team that is setting up a new degree program for school counselors. That program is launching this summer. So with that, Tequina, welcome to the Seed Field podcast. 

[03:01] Taqueena Quintana: Hi Jasper, thank you so much. 

[03:03] Jasper: So we like to start the show by asking guests to disclose their positionality, especially when it’s relevant to the topic that we’re discussing. And public education, mental health, these topics touch all of our society’s axes of oppression. So I think anybody listening to this conversation would want to know that I am a white cisgendered man. I’m not living with a physical disability, though I do experience anxiety and depression. I’m queer. I have a college degree and a master’s degree. I have steady housing and income and have a lot of privilege on these axes. So Tequina, I would pass it over to you. As much as you’re comfortable, can you share your own position?

 [03:41] Taqueena: Yes, thank you. I am a black cisgendered woman. I am not living with a physical disability, although I do experience some anxiety. I have a doctorate degree, steady housing and stable income. I am a counselor educator, certified school counselor, and a licensed clinical professional counselor. 

[04:00] Jasper: Thank you, and thank you for bringing all of that to this conversation. So I thought we could start off with just this question of what is a school counselor and what are school counselors expected to do in schools? 

[04:13] Taqueena: Great question. School counselors are educational leaders, change agents, and advocates who work in K through 12 settings and are responsible for supporting the academic, career, and social emotional development needs of all students. In a nutshell, school counselors provide direct and indirect services. So on the direct side, that may look like classroom counseling lessons and presentations, group counseling, small group counseling, and individual counseling, both short term in nature. On the indirect side, indirect meaning in support of students or on behalf of students, so not directly student facing. Those responsibilities may entail collaboration and consultation with school and community stakeholders. And in the event that a student has needs that go far beyond the scope of the school counselor will then typically refer to the appropriate personnel. 

[05:13] Jasper: Okay. 

[05:14] Taqueena: So in a nutshell, that’s a school counselor, that’s what we do. 

[05:16] Jasper:  My first reaction is just that is a massive job to be the point person for the development of career and academic trajectory. And also the social emotional needs, including directly leading counseling session. 

[05:33] Taqueena: Yeah, absolutely, our education and then our internship, our field experience. It just really entails so much so that when we graduate from our programs, we’re ready to go into schools and hit the ground running in just so many different areas. 

[05:48] Jasper: Yeah, I’m also curious how they fit into that wider school ecosystem that is supporting students. 

[05:53] Taqueena: So it depends really on the educational level, right? Because elementary school counselors look very different from middle school counselors who look very different from high school counselors. And so in terms of fitting in, it really just depends on the exact responsibilities of the school counselor in the building. And so an elementary school counselor, while they may not really engage or be immersed in a lot of career development, although it does exist, the core areas are really social, emotional and academic. Whereas on high school level, as you mentioned earlier, a lot of that work, that secondary piece, a lot of that work really looks at that career development, post-secondary success and academics. So the scheduling and the academic plans and in California A through G requirements and those types of things. We often find that on the high school level, and I know I could speak for California and some other states. Typically the social and emotional piece, you may have an LMFT or an LPCC or another mental health professional that may provide that specific support. I know in some school districts in California like LAUSD, there are no elementary school counselors at all. And so those students typically don’t see the school counselor until middle school. And then in middle school, right, because I don’t want to forget about the middle child.

 [07:15] Jasper: Yeah. 

[07:15] Taqueena: In middle school, you see a nice span or wide range of services in the academic, social, emotional, and career readiness area, right? So middle school has all three. And again, not to say that there are no high schools that don’t have school counselors providing social emotional support or that there aren’t any elementary school counselors at all, ever. 

[07:38] Jasper: So you’re saying the California model is to have these be separate roles. You have one person doing social emotional support, who’s like a marriage and family therapist. And then you have a separate person who’s the quote unquote school counselor, who’s really a guidance counselor, like my own experience. Do I have that right?

 [07:54] Taqueena: Yeah.

 [07:55] Jasper: Okay. 

[07:55] Taqueena: And we try to stay away from that G word, right? Cause we’ve shifted from the guidance counselor to the school counselor back in the early 2000s. But yes, you are correct. 

[08:04] Jasper: But my understanding is the program that you guys are setting up on our New England campus that is a school counseling program is for folks who take on all of those roles. So they’re doing social and emotional and career counseling and academic counseling. 

[08:20] Taqueena: Correct, so our training spans all three areas. So no matter what school counseling program you graduate from, our training spans academic, social, emotional, and career development needs. 

[08:30] Jasper: Okay. 

[08:30] Taqueena: It just depends on where you are hired, and you don’t know where you’re going to be hired. Some folks may want to be high school counselors, but may only be interviewed for middle school and elementary. And if you have bills to pay, like most of us do, you will take what you can, at least to get your foot in the door until you can get to where it is that you want to go. But we’re all trained in all areas, even if we aren’t always used in all areas. 

[08:55] Jasper: So I want to make sure that I also understand the limits of the school counselor role. So when I was going through school, the principal was in charge of discipline if there had been a fight between students or bullying. Is that part of the school counselor role now?

 [09:09] Taqueena: Really good question. It is not a part of the school counselor’s role. But unfortunately, many of us are pulled into situations where we have to navigate disciplinary issues. Not only is it uncomfortable, it’s out of our scope. We’re not trained to navigate discipline issues, although we are trained to help support that social emotional impact. We’re there to help the student manage their emotions and process their emotions, those things. But we’re not the judge and jury, so to speak, when it comes to disciplinary issues, and oftentimes we are roped into them, especially in smaller schools, where if the principal or the assistant principal isn’t present in the building for whatever reason, training or what have you, sometimes the school counselor is called on to be the building leader. I can tell you that has happened to me. And it’s very difficult to be a child school counselor and then also be the disciplinarian because then you have that role confusion. 

[10:08] Jasper: Yeah. 

[10:08] Taqueena: Right? Are you here to help me or are you here to punish me? Right? So that really causes some issues and confusion. 

[10:16] Jasper: Yeah, would you be comfortable sharing a little bit more about your own experience of being called into that role? 

[10:22] Taqueena: Absolutely. And again, just to be clear, some of us who are not roles or principal or assistant principal when they’re not in the building, still have to help support that discipline piece. I can tell you for me personally, I was in a small school. The student population was probably about 250, very small school. Principal was out for a day for training. I was new to the building but not new to school counseling. And I was asked to hold down the fort. I was the point person. I didn’t know that until another teacher or someone said, whenever the principal isn’t in the building, it is the school counselor who’s supposed to run everything. And it made me very anxious, very nervous, right? Because not only do I have to hold down my job, which is already very heavy, but it’s also helping teachers and supporting them, supporting other staff that might be janitorial or cafeteria, helping parents, whether it’s a problem or not, office staff. It’s just a lot to juggle and maintain. Thankfully, I went through the day where there were no student issues. Because the teacher knew that the principal was out, they really did a great job of managing behaviors in their classrooms. And so I didn’t really have to interfere with anything. They called parents if it was needed and sent discipline referrals to the principal’s email. So when the principal returned, he was able to handle all of those things. 

[11:41] Jasper: Ok, that makes sense. And I’m glad that your own experience wasn’t super intense. But that does sound like you’re already juggling a very difficult job. And now you’re being asked to fill in for another job. Are there any other directions that school counselors get pulled away from their core duties? 

[11:58] Taqueena: Oh, tons. Jasper, tons. We’re often pulled for lunch duty and recess. We are often pulled for dismissal duty or arrival duty. I’ve heard some school counselors even mention that they’ve been pulled into classrooms to sub or cover a teacher who may be out. School counselors are often pulled in to do test coordinating duties. I remember doing that one year. So we’re pulled in a lot of different ways. And although the American School Counselor Association talks about fair share duties and those things and really helping and supporting our team, these duties are what we call inappropriate duties. And the American School Counseling Association actually has a chart that really tells us what are appropriate duties for school counselors and what are inappropriate duties for school counselors. And so things like test coordinating, 504 plans or accommodation plan coordinating, all of those things are out of scope. We’re not trained to do that. Those roles really should be assigned to others. But when you have individuals who are not necessarily educated about our roles or are educated about our roles but have immediate needs that they feel far trump the needs of the school, the students, and the school counselors themselves, then that is where you get school counselors pulled into every different direction. 

[13:20] Jasper: Yeah, I guess it sounds like the people making decisions at schools recognize that it’s a school, it needs to have some counselors, but then they don’t necessarily treat the role as being important or baseline, like, “This is non-negotiable. We need this person sitting in their school counseling office with their school counseling hat on.” Like, it’s negotiable. And so I guess I’m curious, why is it important for students to have access for school counselors? Why is it important for school counselors to be able to actually do their jobs? 

[13:50] Taqueena: Yeah. School counselors are essential to the development of the whole child. Again, we’re talking about that academic, social, emotional, career readiness piece, right? We are a solid element of the student’s village, right? And we help to support well-being and growth. And this impacts them not just in that immediate time and space, right, in K through 12, not just in the immediate moments or the day-to-day moments that were with them, but we also contribute, right? That support also contributes to their post-secondary development, right? So beyond high school, right? Whether they go to college, whether they choose careers, our work is that influenced. And so it’s critical that school counselors are present in schools and that they are able to do their jobs, right? When we’re pulled in all those different directions, we are being pulled away from our core essential duties. So if I’m doing lunch duty, for example, and I’m outside at recess, I am now supervising an area which may or may not push me towards that disciplinary role if someone is maybe not displaying good behavioral choices. But instead of doing lunch duty, I could be in my office doing a small group to support students who may have just transferred into the building and need help acclimating into the larger school community, right? Or a grief group, maybe students who lost a pet or students whose parents have just divorced. Or I could be doing individual counseling with a student who’s just returning back to school after a long illness. Or I could really be doing my job is what I’m saying. 

[15:23] Jasper: Yeah.

[15:23] Taqueena: And I will tell you, full disclosure, because a lot of school counselors do this as well, when we are pulled into those inappropriate duties, we do try to make the most of that time and space. And so what I used to do is when I had recess duty and cafeteria duty, I would utilize mindfulness strategies like mindful eating to help support a social emotional development within the cafeteria, because before I got there, it was a madhouse. 

[15:45] Jasper: Wait, I’m curious, what is mindful eating? I’ve never heard that. 

[15:49] Taqueena: So if you are familiar with like mindfulness, which is like paying attention non-judgmentally, with curiosity and with intention, the students thought it was a way for them, because I had some younger students, they initially thought that it was a way for them to be able to taste their food better, because we did the raisin meditation and all of those things. But what they learned was that they were able to pay attention to their food, pay attention to the process, think about how the food was made. They really was able to pay attention with intention to this one thing. So they weren’t worried about yesterday when Billy started a food fight, or tomorrow I have to come to school because I have an exam. They weren’t worried about the before and after. They were in the moment and present and worried simply about eating their food. And so that is what they did. And during recess duty, we would do walk-in talk counseling. So if I had students on my caseload who needed a session, but I couldn’t get them to my office because I was too busy doing recess duty, I would utilize that opportunity outside to walk around the track with the student one-on-one, of course, being mindful of confidentiality and other ears that may be around. But I would use that opportunity to connect with the students because I couldn’t get to my office. I had to be on duty. 

[17:05] Jasper: Yeah, it’s beautiful to hear your kind of hacks or these ways that you made the most of being pulled away from your central duties. But listening to you talk about the importance of running a grief group or running a group for kids who are dealing with their parents having a divorce, those more essential duties seem so important towards just the general long-term health of the school and development of the students. And having a counselor be pulled in to serve as a substitute teacher and lose a whole day of counseling work because they’re filling in for a math teacher who’s out and they couldn’t get a sub, that seems penny-wise and pound-foolish. In parenting, we talk about like living for the day or living for the year. It seems like it’s, we’re just going to get through this school day and we’ll deal with the deeper problems that our student body is tackling. We’ll deal with that tomorrow. Today, we’re just going to forget about doing these more responsible long-term things. 

[18:03] Taqueena: Yeah, and we’re very preventative and our roles are very preventative in nature. We often have to put out fires, but we like to be able to have systems and supports set up. So our fire extinguisher, our fire hose, we like to have things set up and ready prior to any of those things to ensure that when or if something happens, we all have the resources and supports to address whatever the concern is. But if I am constantly being pulled for lunch duty and we have a student who is dealing with grief and loss or divorce or what have you, and these behaviors are playing out in class and that student is constantly being removed from class at the same time that I’m in the cafeteria supervising to maybe 300 students while they eat lunch, what happens now to this kid who was acting out in the class? They don’t get to come to the counselor. Who do they have to go to? The administrator. Yeah. Where they’ll probably get detention, right? Or where they’ll probably get suspended, where there’s other things that are happening because we aren’t able to do that preventative work. 

[19:05] Jasper: Yeah. And it’s also just sad to think about a student who needs a loving person and a skilled mental health professional to listen to them and to help them process and find their way through their feelings and develop skills so that they can handle their feelings on their own. Now, instead of getting that help, facing punishment, which is, if anything, likely to make the problem worse. 

[19:28] Taqueena: Yeah. And what message are we sending to our school communities when we say we need to assign you to be the substitute teacher or we need to assign you to lunch duty or what have you? What are we telling our school community when the importance of those things are bigger than the social emotional needs of our students? Right? What message are we sending their parents? What message are we sending the kids, right? That there is no time for you to process emotions. And it’s not important for you to talk to somebody when you’re feeling sad or when you’re hurt or angry, right? Just know that those emotions are inappropriate. And if you do something, you’re going to the principal’s office. That, to me, that seems like that is the message in a lot of spaces. Now, I will tell you, because I don’t want to make it sound all bad. There are schools that are really flourishing and really doing well. And part of it is because they allow their school counselors to do their jobs. When everyone is focused on their role and they’re doing their jobs, the machine runs smoothly. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t any issues. It just means that those issues are being appropriately addressed because people are able to do their jobs. And again, there are some schools that do it well, especially when the admin, because the admin is the person that sets the tone. So when an admin is on your side, on your team, your school will grow beautifully. I even know some school counselors who became principals and they have a soft spot in their heart for school counselors in the school counseling program because they have the training and they recognize the importance of the role. 

[20:58] Jasper: That’s beautiful. It’s wonderful to hear that some school counselors are becoming principals. When I was going through school, all of my school administrators were former PE teachers. So the idea of it being like a trained mental health professional seems like it might have been a slightly different approach. We could maybe use more school counselors in those leadership positions. 

[21:16] Taqueena: And speaking of which, we do have some school counselors who move beyond the schools and end up working for the district because there are district level school counseling coordinators and directors and managers. And those individuals, they are responsible typically for supporting all of the school counselors in the district on a programmatic level. So when you think of like school counseling program and structure, utilizing specific strategies and models and resources and all of those things, really setting the tone for what school counselors should be doing in their buildings. A lot of districts have a school counseling point person on the district level that represents school counselors in those larger district meetings, but also provides specific support for school counselors in the schools. Unfortunately, these individuals do not evaluate school counselors. You would think that because these individuals have training, because they usually have master’s degrees in school counseling, that they would be perfect to evaluate the work of school counselors. But they are not. Typically, principals and assistant principals are the supervisors of school counselors in the building. So while the district person can offer support, they are not supervising school counselors. So my boss has always been a principal or an assistant principal. And these individuals did not have a school counseling background. So we didn’t really speak the same language. And while there was great conversation and great collaboration, there were some stuck points from time to time, and there had to be like maybe a rupture repair reconnection process so that we could understand each other and recognize the job. Yeah, it’s great to have someone in the district level to advocate for us. But if they’re not really evaluating our work, and we’re left to admins in our buildings, sometimes that can be really difficult to navigate. Where if you look at school psychologists, their supervisors are usually someone at the district office, the district level. Principals are not the bosses or the supervisors of school psychs. In many districts, you will see that their person is working at the district level, and that person evaluates their work. That person is usually a school psychology background as well. Yeah, just a little tidbit. 

[23:35] Jasper: No, thank you for that inside baseball on how the American educational system tends to be organizing things. And I want to talk about some of these challenges within the profession of school counseling. You mentioned that one thing that school counselors are facing is being responsible for way too many students. So can you give us a sense of how many students is ideal for a school counselor, and then what some of your colleagues in the profession are facing today? 

[24:03] Taqueena: Yeah, sure. The American School Counselor Association, or ASCA, recommends a counselor to student ratio of 1 to 250. Their most recent ratio data from the ’22, ’23 school year, it does show that numbers are reducing. So they’re decreasing. They’re coming down with states like New Hampshire and Vermont kind of leading that charge, where their ratios are like 1 to maybe 230, 200, so less than that 250 number. Other states like Arizona that have a ratio of 1 to 600 plus students. California is 1 to, I think, 464 students. And this is just general data that ASCA has collected. But I’m sure there are other schools, and I’ve worked in some, there are other schools where the ratios are much higher, where I’ve heard folks talk about they are the only school counselor in a building of 700 or 800 students. 

[25:02] Jasper: Oh, my gosh. 

[25:02] Taqueena: I worked in a building. I wasn’t the only one. There were three other counselors, but that building had 1,300 students. So yeah, it really depends on the school. Of course, the school size, the community. If you go to maybe more rural communities, where schools are a little smaller, you may find that the ratios then are smaller as well. 

[25:24] Jasper: Yeah, I feel like Vermont maybe has that on its side in getting those numbers down. In one of our past episodes, we talked with an education faculty member, Deb Cackle, who has been studying the disappearance of school librarian jobs nationwide. And she was pointing to the way that these quote unquote non-essential functions are increasingly being stripped out of schools, defunded. That includes music teachers, too. It includes all sorts of different programs. And maybe the one growth area is like police on campus, the school cops. And I guess I’m curious if you see those same forces applying to school counseling. 

[26:03] Taqueena: So while I don’t see jobs or the role disappearing, I do find that there still needs to be more offerings or vacancies or spaces, which would also help out that ratio. Again, because of the school counselor’s role, the school counselors are involved in so many different areas and work with so many different people within the school community, that school ecosystem. But I don’t find the role disappearing. I do find that there are more and more programs that are being developed to ensure that there are folks ready and trained and prepared to go into schools and provide the support that is needed. And I do recognize art teachers, drama teachers. I was in a school where there were two PE teachers, and one was sent to another school. So that does happen. But with school counseling, I have not experienced that or really seen it as much. I feel like there’s more of a growth. 

[26:57] Jasper: Yeah. I’m glad to hear that. And I also think for people considering entering this profession, that’s also, I’m sure, nice to hear that it isn’t just more and more people fighting for fewer and fewer spots, but in fact, that there is need for new school counselors. 

[27:12] Taqueena: Yeah. And I will tell you, too, in schools that may not have school counseling positions for whatever reason, budget, whatever, sometimes those districts also have other positions. So like in LAUSD, they have attendance counselors. And in some other schools, they have actual career counselors, either hired by the district or an outside organization or agency that comes in to provide support. And so if you have a school counseling degree, a lot of times folks apply for those roles. And they go in and provide support, pupil, personnel services, manager. And so even though the role may not be– I know we’re talking about school counseling here. For those folks who can’t necessarily get into that job right away, they sometimes go into other spaces to start their careers off and then go into the school counseling piece. I can tell you I worked in Arkansas for a couple of years. In some of their districts, they offer what they call an emergency or a temporary permit. So if there is a teacher who was in a school counseling master’s degree program, they can work as a school counselor as long as they finish their degree by a certain time. That is how huge the need was there for school counselors. But typically, school districts will hire a school counselor who has a master’s degree and a certification or licensure in school counseling. Folks who are taking these positions, they have to know what they’re doing. But yeah, in Arkansas– and I’m sure there are other states that do it. So I think Washington state, one district that I’m aware of, I had a student who was on an emergency permit because the district did not have any qualified school counselors. And so they sent this individual to school for the master’s degree. And he was phenomenal. 

[28:57] Jasper: I’m glad to note that the profession is thriving and doing good work. I also wanted to ask about the demographics of school counselors compared to the students that they’re serving. Does the profession of school counselors, do they perfectly mirror the demographics of the students they’re serving or no?

[29:13] Taqueena: Good question. Good question. So ASCA does a demographic report each year where they poll the members and all that fun stuff that they do on that side. And so their demographic report for 2023 shows that—and this has been the same kind of like in previous years—where the majority of their members, because you have school counselors who may not be members of the American School Counseling Association, but they are members who are school counselors, school counselor educators, like professors, and folks on the district level– that 74% of the people who took the poll were white. And the majority of ASCA membership is women. Right? And so many of our school counselors are white women. I think in my career, I worked with one male counselor. All the other counselors were women, and they were white. I was typically the only Black counselor in the building. So it’s interesting reading the demographic report and then thinking about my own experience. And I will tell you that the schools in which I’ve worked in–inner city schools, I’ve worked on military bases, both here in the States and overseas in Japan. I’ve worked in New York City public schools, DCPS. I’ve worked all over. And I will tell you that the demographics of the students are typically mixed, right? And one school I worked in was predominantly Latino. And so we had a huge ESL population. Many of our students were bilingual. Some of their parents did not speak English, right? And if the interpreter wasn’t available, I was there to speak to parents, because I can speak conversational Spanish, and I was there to support. None of my other colleagues knew Spanish. So how were those parents supposed to connect and build community? And typically, I was sought out for support with the students, because the other counselors didn’t speak the language. It wasn’t that the parents didn’t like the other counselors, but they were comfortable with someone who spoke the language or someone who looked like them. That representation matters piece.

 [31:13] Jasper: Yeah.

[31:13] Taqueena: Yeah. 

[31:14] Jasper: That makes a lot of sense. I guess I’m curious if there are structural forces that have kept the profession being predominantly white. And specifically, I’m curious, you’ve been part of designing this new program. And have there been any steps that you’ve taken to make it more inviting for folks who historically have not, for whatever reason, joined the profession of school counseling?

[31:37] Taqueena: Yeah, our program and the university’s mission is really strongly rooted in social justice and advocacy work, and working to support underserved, underrepresented, marginalized communities. In terms of our specific students too, we are working on what we call an educational promise track. So for folks who identify an underrepresented, more marginalized, underserved communities, individuals who may not classically be a part of our programs, or may have issues in navigating school programs, or just because they may not have had experience or really know, we provide support in that way. So folks who come into our educational promise track, they get mentorship, and they build community with a cohort, and there are some other resources and things that we provide to ensure that they have what they need so that they can be on an even playing field with other students.

 [32:29] Jasper: I love that. And I’m glad to hear that you’re taking those steps. And hopefully down the line, that does help to start creating a school counselor workforce that better reflects the demographics of the students they’re serving.

 [32:44] Taqueena: Yes.

[32:45] Jasper: I feel like I understand so much better the role of what school counselors do, and some of the challenges that are facing the field. And I guess I’m curious your vision for the future of this profession. Are there any opportunities that you see for the profession to keep evolving and doing better, serving schools and students in even better ways?

 [33:06] Taqueena: Yeah, I think there’s always room to evolve and to grow and to continue to develop. But I also believe that there is current work that needs to be done in order for us to move forward and to really shift and embrace that change. And the key piece, as I’ve mentioned before, is that alignment in our roles. When I think of a better future for school counselors, when I think of that vision, I think of school counselors who are able to do their jobs. I think of school counselors who are able to have the time that they need to be able to support students and their families and just school communities to ensure that our students are getting the support that they need to be successful human beings. Many of my colleagues who are presenting at conferences, they have all these wonderful, creative, innovative ideas on how to really move your program from level A to level B, just beautiful things that are happening in our profession. Folks on social media using technology to help support our school counselors and students in schools that are in different states and in different countries. I think it’s a beautiful process, but I do believe that the work has to be done with school districts and then a school level admin to ensure that school counselors can do their jobs. Teachers don’t have to advocate to be teachers. As a matter of fact, they have so much on their plate. They’re asking for some help and support. But I feel like oftentimes school counselors are the only ones in the building that have to really prove their jobs and prove themselves and show the effectiveness of their role and how what it is that they do matters, right? How it is impactful and influential. We have to constantly keep proving ourselves in our roles. And I don’t often find that other folks have to do that.

 [34:50] Jasper: Yeah, that doesn’t seem like something school counselors should be forced to do continually. I appreciate that your answer points not at some big innovation, but more at the core principles of this is a righteous task. Let us do it and give us the resources so that we can actually do what we say we want to do.

 [35:11] Taqueena: Yeah, and when I often ask individuals, “Why do you wanna be a school counselor?” “Oh, I wanna help kids. “I wanna support kids.” There’s a lot that goes into this work, right? There’s a lot that goes into this work. And that advocacy piece for student, as well as our role, those are critical pieces of the work that we do. And you wanna be a school counselor, you have to be prepared for those things.

 [35:33] Jasper: I appreciate that. And I guess as a last question, I’m curious, I think some people listening to this will be considering maybe applying to your program or thinking about becoming school counselors themselves. But for those of us who aren’t in the school counseling profession and don’t have plans to join it tomorrow, how can we advocate and support school counselors in our schools, and especially if we’re parents?

[35:56] Taqueena: Great question. I think definitely ensuring that you are purposeful and intentional about building partnerships with your school counselors. It is so critical. I think that learning about the school counselor’s role from the school counselor themselves and building those partnerships, they are essential to the success of students. We talk about parental involvement and oftentimes ways to get our parents connected to our schools, right? Some parents work full-time jobs and just there are all these barriers and things that are happening. And sometimes schools feel like maybe they’re doing a lot more of the work than the parents are or vice versa. Some parents feel like they’re doing more of the work than the school is. I think that to support the school counselors and essentially the school, there has to be equal effort in building that relationship, that partnership to ensure that the school community benefits from both because parents also have voices. The community also has voices and these voices help us to continue to shape our programs and all the things that we do for our students. So I think it’s important to intentionally build community and build those relationships and have them to be consistent relationships. So not when something happens in the community and we all need to band together like a crisis or not when there’s a special holiday and we all need to celebrate. But even in those moments where there isn’t anything huge happening, this needs to be a constant, transparent, consistent process.

[37:25] Jasper: I love that. Well, that is a beautiful place to wrap up this conversation. Thank you so much, Tequina, for coming on the Seed Field Podcast.

[37:32] Taqueena: Thank you for having me. 

[upbeat music]

 [37:38] Jasper: The Master of Arts in School Counseling that Taqueena helped design is currently enrolling students from across the country with classes conducted online and then in two week long in-person residencies. We have a link to more information about that program in our show notes. And we’ll also link in our show notes to Tequina’s faculty page. We post these show notes on our website, theseedfield.org, where you’ll also find full episode transcripts, prior episodes and more. The Seed Field Podcast is produced by Antioch University. Our editor is Johanna Case. I’m your host, Jasper Nighthawk. Our digital designer is Mira Mead. Jen Mont is our web content coordinator. Stefanie Perrettes, Georgia Bermingham, Grace Kerfman and Lauren Arianzale are our work study interns. A special thanks to Karen Hamilton, Amelia Bryan and Melinda Garland. Thank you for spending your time with us today. That’s it for this episode. We hope to see you next time. And don’t forget to plant a seed, sow a cause and win a victory for humanity. From Antioch University, this has been The Seed Field Podcast.