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Counselor got into field to help

Staff writer

USD 408 counselor Kris Burkholder didn’t always want to be a school counselor. She started her career as a high school English teacher.

She developed a rapport with her students, and students started to confide in her with their personal problems to ask for advice.

Burkholder said she wanted to be able to help them better than she felt she could, so she returned to college and earned a degree in counseling.

“My main job is to help provide and support a safe learning environment for all students,” she said.

That can involve helping students with stress management, coping with changes in their home environment like divorce or death, feelings of rejection or exclusion, fighting with friends, and anger and sadness.

Burkholder said it is hard to fully explain the job, because a lot of the day-to-day work with students is confidential. It can be emotionally draining, she said.

“It’s hard for me at times to go home at night and not take my job with me,” but she has to be able to take a break from it to do her job to the best of her ability every day.

Burkholder has been the counselor for Marion Elementary School the past three years. With the retirement of Phoebe Janzen at the high school, she will now counsel all grades.

“Certainly, Phoebe will be missed in the district,” USD 408 Superintendent Lee Leiker said.

Burkholder has experience with all levels of counseling, she said.

“I’m excited to be able to work with all age groups of kids,” she said.

Elementary school and middle and high school counseling have substantial differences, she said. At elementary school, students are undergoing basic development and self-discovery. In middle and high school, counseling is more focused on peer relationships and what students want to do after school and career exploration.

Burkholder said the district, particularly Leiker, is doing things to help her focus on the emotional and social needs of students. Career and college preparation will be spread out to more of the staff, she said.

“Everybody’s had to take on more duties as we have reduced our staff,” Leiker said.

Last modified July 27, 2011

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