SYSK: Counselor of the year - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

SYSK: Counselor of the year

by Danielle Wagner

APLINGTON (KWWL)Troubleshooting, problem solving and listening. Those are just some of the roles of school guidance counselors.

There are more than a thousand school counselors in Iowa, and an eastern Iowa counselor was named counselor of the year for 2010.

"Anything I can do to help kids so they can learn better," said Kathie Barry.

Kathie Barry is someone students meet with to figure out problems, get some advice or just to talk.

She's the guidance counselor for kindergarten through eighth graders in Aplington.

"I think people would be surprised with how many kids she tries on a daily basis to get to," said teacher Virginia Beecher.

Barry has been a school counselor for almost 15 years, and she just earned a high honor: multi-level counselor of the year through the Iowa School Counselor Association. A fellow counselor nominated her.

"There's so many people who do the same thing I do everyday. We just go to work and try to help as many kids as we can," said Barry.

Barry's role became even more necessary and important after tragedy struck Aplington-Parkersburg. First, the tornado in 2008. Then the shooting of Coach Ed Thomas in 2009.

"She knew she wasn't trained for the bigger issues, particularly the tornado so she went and got it and then taught it to us," said Virginia Beecher.

Barry took the initiative to go to Michigan for trauma training. She learned the peak emotional need for many students is at least a year and a half after the crisis.

"She's really like that great light that illuminates something for us that we wouldn't have thought of because teacher role is a very different role, and she sees kids in a different light than we do. We're frustrated by not getting work in and she'll bring up to understand what the student's facing and why they're not getting work in and what we can do as a staff to help get them through both things," said Beecher.

Kathie Barry said the job of counselor is often misunderstood.

"I wish I could show you what I do. What I do people can't really see because it's confidential," said Barry.

While conversations are confidential, she said students coming to speak with her isn't a bad thing.

"Parents freak out when they learn their child went to the guidance counselor, they think I'm a shrink but I just teach kids normal growing up stuff," she said.

It's just nice to have another adult available, especially when students don't want to worry their parents.

"I remember after the tornado that was a big thing, they knew parents lost the home, lost everything, working 18 hours a day to clean, the kids didn't want to bother their parents with their worries and their fears," said Barry.

Barry's role is clear: help the students work through any problems so they can go back to the classroom and focus on learning.

"I can't imagine there's a guidance counselor in the state who deserves the award more than she does. If our school was going to be the victim of terrible circumstances, thank goodness she was here to help us through it," said Beecher.

Whether it's meeting with students during lunch, visiting classrooms or talking one-on-one, Barry is happy with her career choice.

"When you say you love coming to work, you can't ask for much more than that," she said.

Reporter: Danielle Wagner

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