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Lochbaum considered 'dean of counselors'

March 12, 2005|by John Verderosa

In tribute to the 140th Anniversary Celebration of the Washington County Board of Education and in recognition of National School Counseling Week, I talked with long-time school counselor Bob Lochbaum of North Hagerstown High School to learn about how the careers of counselors have changed over the years. Lochbaum, who is in his 47th year of employment with the Washington County Public Schools, has a career that spans nearly one-third of the history of the system and two full-generations of students - a phenomenal accomplishment. Here is what I learned from spending some time with him.

The year was 1965. We were in the grip of the British invasion. Our involvement in Vietnam was intensifying. Voting rights legislation became the cornerstone of LBJ's "New Society." Amidst this backdrop, Lochbaum began his journey as a school counselor. He was already a teacher, having taken a position in the business department of South Hagerstown High School in 1958. Lochbaum really enjoyed the student-teacher interaction he experienced in the classroom. After securing an advanced degree in administration and supervision in 1962, Lochbaum enrolled in the graduate program at Shippensburg State Teachers College. There, he concentrated on coursework needed to achieve certification as a school counselor. Equipped with the required credentials to counsel school-aged children, Lochbaum accepted a position at North Potomac Middle School. By the fall of 1967, Lochbaum found himself at North Hagerstown High School; he has been a fixture there ever since.

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So what's it been like to spend 40 years of your life doing something you really enjoy - yet you call it your job? "It's been everything I could have asked for, and more," replied Lochbaum. "I had the good fortune to find my niche and I knew that because as my 30th year of employment rolled around, I contemplated retirement and a second career in business. The more I thought about it, the less appealing it became. I couldn't see myself any place but in the counselor's chair."

At my urging, Lochbaum reminisced a bit about the changing role of the counselor. "When I first started, there was a big emphasis on standardized achievement tests like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Testing dominated my time; I proctored them, packaged them, and interpreted the results. There was also a quasi-administrative component to my job in those early years. I imposed consequences on kids just like assistant principals do today. My role today is to help a student modify an undesirable behavior, not punish it."

I asked Lochbaum to comment on some of the changes he has witnessed during his tenure at North High. "Fads come and fads go; there are always cosmetic changes that accompany them. Kids at that age are conformity conscious. Long hair, short hair and no hair; straight leg pants and bell bottoms; jeans and cargo pants; mini-skirts and full length skirts, I've seen it all. But the biggest real change has been the degree of self-autonomy that kids have today versus kids a generation ago. That's a little scary to me. In years past, it was the parents who made the decisions about their children's schedules and the clothes they wore to school and the music they listened to. Today, that's no longer the case.

"Of course, technology has had a profound impact on education and my role as a counselor. I didn't have computers in the counseling center a generation ago. Everything I had to offer was in print. The volume of information was limited. Computers have opened up a whole new world and the pace of that world has accelerated.

"Ultimately though, it's the relationships I've built with students and their families that has made my job so enjoyable. Yes, as the times have changed, I have had to change with them because I have come to recognize that the only way to forge a true relationship is to be accommodating and tolerant of other people's views. Flexibility and a non-judgmental approach to kids are two valuable counselor assets. As I look back over the years, I can honestly say my job has been personally rewarding and fulfilling. Administrators have respected the importance of the counseling relationship and they have kept my duties to a minimum, allowing me to do my job."

Forty years and still on the go, Bob Lochbaum is the dean of school counselors in Washington County. No doubt, this man has influenced many lives in and around the community of Hagerstown. What few people knew until now is the profound impact students and parents have had on Lochbaum. As he said to me as I was leaving, "It's the kids that keep me young; I just keep coming back for more."

Mr. Lochbaum, thank you for sharing your lifetime with the students of Washington County. And thanks to all the hundreds of counselors, teachers, administrators, and support personnel who have worked with you over the years and who are currently serving our students. Without you all, providing quality educational experiences for our more than 20,000 students would be impossible.




John Verderosa is supervisor of pupil personnel and guidance for Washington County Public Schools.

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