Vancouver counselor is among top in the nation
Quiet determination. Strong sense of justice. Humor.
These are the traits often used to describe school counselor Megan Bledsoe. These characteristics also are why the Vancouver middle school counselor is the Washington School Counselor of the Year. Bledsoe is the only finalist from the West Coast for the 2021 national honor given by the American School Counselor Association.
"Right now, counseling is a bit more challenging, but I have been inspired by my colleagues to come up with creative solutions," Bledsoe says. "A lot of what I do is similar to what I did in person, but now just over Zoom: I have meetings with students and families, I drop into classes to check in with students, I do classroom presentations, I run several clubs and groups and I have drop-in office hours. I also make a whole lot more videos than I used to!"
Bledsoe has worked at Discovery Middle School in Vancouver for more than a decade. She and two other team members provide school counseling services to the school's approximately 700 students in grades 6-8.
"Middle schoolers can be a tricky group to connect with, but I find that if I am slow and steady with my approach, I can create a foundation of trust and rapport to build interventions and supports on," she says.
When remote learning began for sixth-graders in the fall, she looked for creative ways she could help students struggling to connect with their peers. She visited Zoom classrooms to discuss interests and needs with students, surveyed students and families, and started clubs held virtually so students could meet and connect with others with similar interests and hobbies. She now has more than 10 active clubs, including one for anime, music video, video game, and stress busters. She holds drop-in help time in addition to in-person meetings for families wishing to meet with her.
Bledsoe says she tries to help new students make connections to the school and their peers. It's about helping students find the best strategies to be successful with their academic and social/emotional needs. She designed and implemented a student ambassador program devoted to the needs of the transient student population.
"It provides new students with a peer guide who helps them transition into their new school, giving leadership opportunities to current students and helping to foster our schoolwide sense of community," fellow Discovery counselor Steve Dutelle says.
Learning remotely has been trying for students, says Bledsoe, but just as challenging for educators. She offers the following tips to colleagues for maintaining a sense of balance in their own social-emotional health:
- It's OK to Not Be OK — Our day to day lives have changed drastically in the last year and it is completely normal to feel sad, upset, or angry at times. It is important to acknowledge and give ourselves space to have these feelings.
- Take Care of Yourself — As educators we often put others needs before of our own, but that isn't always healthy. Remember to stop and take time to address your own needs. If you are taking care of yourself, then you are better able to help others.
- Exercise — Not only does exercise keep you healthy it helps lower stress and anxiety. Find ways to exercise that works for your body, your needs and your schedule.
- Ask for Help — We often tell our students that it is important ask for help when they are struggling. The same goes for us. This year is full of lots of new experiences and emotions. Ask for help when you are struggling. We are all in this together and we need each other more than ever.
Vancouver school counselor Brian Mathieson calls Bledsoe "a balanced combination of unflappable determination and peaceful calm."
"She has a great sense of humor and combines this in equal parts with her dogged focus on what is right for students and the profession," he says.
Bledsoe will be highlighted and honored during National School Counseling Week, Feb. 1-5, 2021.