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Schools to honor counselors

February 05, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - As a school counselor in an elementary and middle school, David "Doc" Holliday said he helps students with personal and family issues.

These duties have stayed consistent for most of his 26 years as a school counselor.

Holliday and more than 50 counselors in Washington County Public Schools will be recognized this week during National School Counseling Week.

In the past few years, Holliday said he's seen more of his young students develop post-traumatic stress disorder - a symptom of the trauma they experienced on and after Sept. 11, 2001.

"I'm getting more and more kids who are insecure and unsure of the future, and I didn't feel that when I was growing up," he said. "It's just this uncertainty about what's going to happen to me and what's going to happen to my life."

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Holliday, a counselor in Hancock's elementary and middle school, said this disorder has different effects on different students. For some, it might mean that they cry or are not behaving as they normally would.

Sharon Barnhart, a guidance counselor at Williamsport High School, said she's been a counselor for more than 30 years, with 20 of those at Williamsport.

She said high schools counselors deal less with students' personal problems and more with testing and readying students for work or college.

Last week, Barnhart said she was handling scheduling for some students who wanted to change their course load for the semester.

"They've signed up for things, but don't like what they're in, so they think we should find something else for them," she said. "We try to do the best we can and meet with all of them. So, that's been my focus for the past week."

Barnhart also is testing coordinator, which means she plans and schedules required standardized tests for students.

"There's been more testing that's come into the high school," she said. "We've always had functional tests before but were not nearly as involved in dealing with them."

In addition to state tests, Barnhart said she helps students prepare for other tests, including the SAT.

"It's really any kind of testing," she said. "That part of my job I never had before. It's new within the past five years."

While high school counselors are helping keep students on track to graduate, Holliday said his students at the elementary and middle school levels are dealing with issues like self-esteem and friendship.

"It's getting along with one another, how to work out problems in a peaceful manner," he said.

Once counselors recognize that students are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, Holliday said he spends time reassuring them that everything will be OK.

"It's a reassurance that we're here with you," he said. "We're part of this team. We understand what you're feeling and thinking."

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