School Counselors play an insurmountable role in the lives of scholars. During National School Counseling Week (Feb. 6-10), Osseo Area Schools recognizes the contributions and tremendous impact school counselors have on ensuring scholars have the essential support needed to succeed. This week, we will feature a few of the dedicated elementary, middle and high school counselors that help our scholars.
Christopher Cary, Osseo Senior High School
Christopher Cary is a school counselor at Osseo Senior High School (OSH). Cary graduated from Park Center Senior High School, and went into business for a few years before shifting to elementary education. He was an elementary teacher for 11 years, when a desire to help out the students who were struggling with the different parts of their lives beyond academics motivated him to become a school counselor. Cary was motivated to become a school counselor to fill gaps that he experienced and saw. He has been a school counselor in Osseo Area Schools for nine years, with this being his first year at OSH.
“I really wanted to help the kids who were struggling with other stuff than academics. I think because I struggle with my own stuff. We all do, life is messy and if I can help a kid navigate through some of that stuff with whatever they are going through, I think in a lot of ways that helps me in return,” Cary said.
Cary manages a caseload of about 480 students, meeting with students one on one for anything from schedule changes to if they are struggling with something in their lives. He is also readily available if a crisis comes up and prepares for the unexpected to support students and staff.
“I think there is still a lot of, ‘what do you do, what is your role?’ and the beauty of that is we can kind of make it our own. We will be talking to a kid about college and careers and then we will talk to a kid struggling with a crisis at home,” Cary said. “It has morphed and changed throughout the years that we are all encompassing. It takes a village to get these students through high school.”
One of Cary’s favorite parts of his job is getting emails from former students, such as one from a student who said that she was considering going into school counseling because of her time with him. He often saves student emails to look at during stressful days. Cary’s favorite thing about OSH is the students and watching them grow and learn from their mistakes in the four years he works with them.
“My philosophy has always been I love them while I’ve got them. While they are here with me and I am in their presence, they know that I am listening and I am here and care about them. If they walk out the door with that feeling then I have done my job,” Cary said.
In his free time, Cary loves to spend time with his son, read and watch movies. He enjoys going on road trips and going antiquing.
Kelly Burnett, Park Center Senior High School
Kelly Burnett is in her first year of school counseling at Park Center Senior High School, though she was a secondary school counselor in another district prior to this year. She said her own experience of having unmet social-emotional needs during high school led her into the school counseling profession.
On a typical day, Burnett spends most of her time meeting with students. She helps with academics, behavior issues, attendance, learning concerns, mental health, motivation and more.
In addition to those things, Burnett said she and her team also put a focus on future planning with their students, along with family communication.
“We work as a team here,” Burnett said. She said for more in-depth mental health concerns, a student management specialist (SMS) and social worker also join the counselor to help serve the student’s needs.
She said school counselors are trained to provide support in three areas: academics, social-emotional, and college/career readiness. They receive training in child development, behavioral concerns and counseling skills to provide a student-centered experience at their school.
“It’s all integrated,” she said, “we’re the first point of access where students will come to see us, and it’s our job to address their needs and make the appropriate referrals to the person who’s best at providing the support they need.”
Chris Yohe, 279Online
Chris Yohe is a school counselor that works with the high schoolers at 279Online. Yohe began his career in education at an intensive tutoring center, where he developed a passion for working with students one on one. Yohe has been a school counselor for 20 years, with this being his first year at 279Online.
“I was a struggling student as a young person, and so I wanted to be an adult who I wished that I had in my life when I was young,” Yohe said.
Yohe enjoys being able to help seniors figure out what they are going to do after they graduate. He has found that some students aren’t aware of all of the options, and he can help them get to somewhere that they are excited about after they graduate. He strives to help students who are academically capable but don’t have background or knowledge on the post-secondary education options.
“The biggest highlight is when students are having something going on that is interfering with their education, whether it's emotional or circumstances, and you can work with them to get through that and they get back in their groove and do well in school,” Yohe said.
Working with students at 279Online, Yohe’s days include answering emails from students and staff and attending bigger meetings and 1 on 1 meetings with students that are either scheduled or during his open office hours, as well as many other tasks to help students on their academic journey.
“School counselors do tons of things behind the scenes that I think people don’t really know about,” Yohe said. “We are trained in how to work with students on social-emotional stuff, and for a lot of us that is what we get into it for, but there are a lot of other tasks we end up doing as well.”
In his free time, Yohe enjoys spending time with his kids, going to baseball games, being outside, hiking, playing the guitar and cooking.