West Elementary’s Shaddix named elementary counselor of the year


ASCA/ACA Elementary School Counselor of the Year Elizabeth Shaddix works at West Elementary School in Cullman. / W.C. Mann

CULLMAN – On Nov. 16, West Elementary School’s Elizabeth Shaddix was named Elementary School Counselor of the Year by the Alabama School Counselor Association at the annual convention of its parent organization, the Alabama Counseling Association, in Mobile.

Shaddix has worked at West for her entire 10-year career in education: three as a teacher and seven as a counselor.  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Athens State University and a master’s degree from the University of West Alabama.

Shaddix spoke with The Tribune about the award:

“I was previously nominated by a colleague.  I was contacted this year by a member of the Alabama School Counseling Association Board member to submit an application.  The application process is extensive, as it asks about your school counseling program and requires recommendation letters.  A panel of professional evaluators reviewed each of the ALSCA nominee submissions, and my entry was ranked the highest.

“They don’t break it down, but I know that we have really strong community support: we have the knapsack feeding program, we work with United Way, with the Volunteers in Public Schools, The Link (of Cullman County), and we work with most of our area churches.  I feel like that’s a big part of our program here.”

Why do you do school counseling?

“I often call school counselors the ‘gate keepers.’  They are the common link between teachers, parents and students.  I love getting the opportunity to work with all three.  We are blessed to be part of a giving community.  One of my favorite aspects of my job is working with our local community churches and agencies.  We work closely with First United Methodist Church in providing weekend meals to students with food insecurities.  We have also worked with First Baptist Church Cullman to donate shoes for our students.  At Christmas, we work with many area churches and community organizations.  We closely work with The Link to provide mentors for students who are struggling in the areas of reading or math.  I also enjoy working with my students in small-groups where we focus on areas such as academic success.”

What would you like to tell folks about counseling at West Elementary? 

“West Elementary is a wonderful place with great students and caring teachers and administration.  Our teachers go above and beyond to make sure every student has what he or she needs.  I am privileged to be able to work with this outstanding faculty to daily help our students.

“The school-counseling program is comprehensive in nature.  Students receive individual, small-group and whole-group guidance monthly.  Our goal is to be able to provide students with whatever they need to be successful.  This is done in a variety of ways.  A school counseling focus this year has been coping skills.  I have been working with each grade level to provide positive coping strategies to handling difficult situations.

“We look at all areas.  We look at how they’re performing academically; that’s number one.  But we’re also looking at, in school counseling: what’s their behavior like, what’s their home life like, are their parents involved.  Do they need something?  A lot of kids here may not have food at home.  They might need help with the power bill, or they might need clothes or shoes. 

“As a school counselor, I feel like we’re really trying to meet the needs of all kids, whether it’s academic or behavior.  Whatever a child needs to be successful at school, we try to figure out a way to make that happen.  Whether it’s getting them an appointment at the dentist, or trying to get them into the doctor’s office; whatever it is, the school counseling program can usually work with our community to make that happen.  I think that’s a very important thing to the life of a school.”

Shaddix took a moment to call on members of the Cullman community to get involved, asking concerned people to give one hour per week as a mentor to students.  Applications for the mentoring program are available from The Link of Cullman County or at West Elementary.

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