Mindy Willard - Ask, Listen, Learn

Mindy Willard

Counselor of the Year

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”
-Winston Churchill

Learn More About Mindy

Mindy Willard has been a school counselor at Sunset Ridge Elementary School in the Pendergast Elementary School District in Glendale, Arizona since 2004. As an elementary school counselor she supports 650 students and the school community through classroom guidance lessons, small groups and individual counseling focusing on the areas of academic, personal/social and career development. She received her Master’s Degree from Ball State University in Indiana. Mrs. Willard is actively involved in the Arizona School Counselor’s Association (AzSCA), serving as former Elementary Vice President and is current President-Elect. In 2007, Mindy was named Multi-Level School Counselor of the Year by AzSCA and has most recently been named 2013 National School Counselor of the Year by the American School Counselor’s Association (ASCA). In 2011, the Sunset Ridge Counseling Program received the Recognized ASCA Model Program Award (RAMP).

Congratulations on being named Counselor of the year. Is there a secret to your methods?

Thank you! It is an amazing honor! My secret is to make as many school counselor friends as possible! I spend countless hours calling or emailing colleagues to collaborate, get advice from or vent to. As the only counselor in my school, with 650 students, it can be a bit overwhelming at times. I rely on the relationships I have built with other counselors in my district and state to motivate me and get me through rough days.

How has the role of the student counselor changed over the years, and how have you adapted?

I have been a school counselor for 9 years and each year my role has changed depending on the needs of my community, my families and my students. I believe counselors have to always stay up to date when it comes to trends in our society. I adapt by attending professional development events and being active in my school community. Gone are the days when school counselors wait in their offices for students to seek them out. My role is to seek my students out through guidance lessons and reviewing school-wide data. Prevention has become a major component to any comprehensive school counseling program.

What are some of the challenges you have faced as counselor?

I have been a school counselor for 9 years and each year my role has changed depending on the needs of my community, my families and my students. I believe counselors have to always stay up to date when it comes to trends in our society. I adapt by attending professional development events and being active in my school community. Gone are the days when school counselors wait in their offices for students to seek them out. My role is to seek my students out through guidance lessons and reviewing school-wide data. Prevention has become a major component to any comprehensive school counseling program.

What are some of the challenges you have faced as counselor?

Time is always the biggest challenge we face as school counselors. There never seems to be enough of it to go around. With a ratio of 1:650 (which is pretty good considering the numbers my colleagues are faced with) I oftentimes feel like I’m just not able to keep up with the demand of my students and families.

What is the best advice you can give to parents when it comes to talking to their kids about Alcohol?

Talk to your kids early! Not just about alcohol but about how to make safe and healthy decisions. Teach your children to consider the consequences of their actions and to find healthy ways to handle their feelings so that they do not turn to alcohol when faced with hard times. Be honest with them and let them know that they can always come to you and you will be there for them, no matter what mistakes they have made.

What methods do you think work best with kids to encourage them to lead a healthy lifestyle?

Prevention is always the best method. Talk to children before they are faced with temptations. Talk to them about good decision-making and about their goals for the future. Focus on how leading a healthy lifestyle will help them reach their goals in life.

What are your personal goals? Is there an issue you would like to focus on specifically?

My personal goal is to always make sure my family comes first. With the demands of working in education, the minutes on the clock seem to go by quickly. I have to make a very conscious effort to ensure that I drop everything I am working at school and get home to spend time with my son and my husband.

My professional focus has always been on working with girls. To build self esteem and to help them seek out healthy relationships with other girls. Too often in our society girls and women are taught to compete against one another.When we do this, it only makes us feel bad about ourselves. When girls feel good about who they are they are much more likely to have the confidence to make smart, healthy decisions.

We can assume it's emotionally draining to be a student counselor, how do you cope with all the pressure and stay focused and energized throughout the year?

I have learned not to carry the burden of my day home with me. When I am at home I focus on spending time with my family and doing things that relax me. I go to the gym, I read, I watch Netflix and spend too much time on websites like Pinterest. But all of those things help me decompress and prepare me to take on the next day.

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