PA Grant Report:
Counseling and the Classroom

March 04, 2022

By Katie Hicks, Middle School Teacher

For several years I have wanted to further my education by pursuing a master’s degree, and the pandemic presented me with time to explore my options. After much deliberation, I applied for and was accepted into the NYU Steinhardt master’s program for School Counseling. Thanks to the MMFS PA Grant, I was able to purchase textbooks for five of my classes.

I am planning to be a school counselor because I want to help students realize their passions and learn how to create a path to achieve them. I want to bring a diverse and differentiated lens to the role, and I want to be part of the shifting ideology within the American school system that argues that college is not the only post-secondary option for students. I want to advocate for children with disabilities and help to ensure that they are getting what they need in their classrooms. I want to provide a safe space within the school walls for students to come for support.

Much of what I’ve learned in my program thus far has also been applicable to my current role as a classroom teacher. I have been able to group students more intentionally, based on their learning needs and my deeper understanding of their developmental needs and stages. I have been able to step in during scenarios where a student has needed a classroom break, and I have been able to provide them with thoughtful and appropriate tools, strategies, and resources. I have seen my communication skills improve significantly, along with my confidence when speaking with parents and supervisors.

My greatest takeaway thus far has been seeing my passion for working with students with learning disabilities grow. I look forward to continuing to work with our students here at MMFS, and to learning more about how I can best support and advocate for them. I hope this program will be a stepping stone for continuing this work as a school counselor. I hope to be a voice in the IEP writing process, and I hope to encourage parents to get their students evaluated for learning disabilities if needed. I hope to help destigmatize learning disabilities in the American education system.

Diving into this study has been eye-opening, and the classes I have taken have helped me to better understand a child’s developmental stages. When I began this program, I did not fully understand the magnitude of the role of a school counselor. Learning all the facets has been overwhelming at times, but ultimately I find the challenge exciting. I initially thought that the primary role of a school counselor was to help students with career planning. But I am learning how psychological theory and mental health counseling also come into play.

I am honored to work at MMFS. This community is genuinely one of a kind. I am thankful to the MMFS Parents Association for their generosity and continuous support, which has helped me to pursue the next step in my professional development.

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