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Catching up with Tiffany Sullivan, Stanley Middle School Counselor

LPIE is proud to provide funding for the Wellness Center and the counseling program at Stanley Middle School, as well as funding the Lunch Clubs.

Tiffany Sullivan, Stanley Middle School counselor, has been integral to the tremendous support for Lafayette middle school families and everyone in the Stanley community will miss her when she retires. We are honored to have been supporting the counseling program for several years.

What inspired you to become a school counselor?

As I am retiring this year, this is a fun assignment! Prior to being a School Counselor, I was in social work and then I was a math teacher. I wanted to have a more varied career where I could help the students that were struggling in my classes vs. teaching the math curriculum. I have been working with middle school students exclusively for my whole career (30 years) and find them fun, silly, engaging, raw, willing to learn new things, and change. Each day is varied, and many are very exciting. There is a blend of work with students and work with parents and teachers which keeps it interesting.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working with students?

I enjoy learning what makes a student tick and what roadblocks seem to be impinging on their learning and social growth. In our job, we provide unconditional positive regard and rapport mixed with short-term and long-term interventions.

How would you describe the school culture?

Our school culture is made up of close to 100 people who have chosen to work with 10 - 14-year-olds. They are mostly fun, funny, caring and committed to helping children connect with others while delivering a high-quality curriculum. Because of Covid, we have pulled into our departments a bit, but for the most part we enjoy each other as a staff.

What’s new in the counseling departments, especially since the start of the pandemic?

Our department has really leaned in to helping with SEL and teaching Academy Wellness solutions for stress and anxiety. We have developed Academy offerings for Executive Functioning and tips for maintaining attention in class and at home. We have also created a group for learning friendship skills, conflict management skills, and finding friends that are healthy. We have started offering a lunchtime "Wildcat Wellness" club during lunch where students come to do stress relieving activities, hang out with friends, and receive calm positive support. Along with the wonderful block schedule—which allowed students and teachers to slow down and dig deeper into curriculum with a more natural pace—the stress level of students has stayed the same or slightly improved since before the pandemic; however visits to School Counseling are on the rise as are requests for academic support and accommodations. Our days are way more busy, packed, and full of competing priorities than they were in the past.

What are some of the biggest challenges students are facing today?

Students continue to struggle to manage the academic pressure and stress to achieve along with packed extra-curricular schedules so that they struggle to have down time. Contrary to the past, if they have down time, they sometimes do not know what to do with it. Students also struggle with social media and an over emphasis/interest on online gaming so that some find it difficult to manage their academic priorities, take a breather with family, and attend to a healthy sleep schedule. However, parents are increasingly aware of all of those factors, and many are making strides to address these issues.

What are some of the ways the counselors are helping students deal with these challenges?

We offer individual, small group, Academy, and school wide lessons and interventions. We spend at least 1/3 of our days communicating with parents, planning, and executing team meetings so that we can help all of the adults in their lives be part of the solution. We are also called upon to speak at PTA meetings, faculty meetings, and Parent nights and do so whenever possible.

What are some of the unique ways that our schools are helping with wellness? (i.e., new facilities, lunch clubs, focus groups, classes)

We have a wonderful new academy classroom and Wildcat Wellness lunch space. We are working to utilize more School Counseling interns and have requested an increase in School Counseling staffing so that we can utilize our wonderful space on a period-by-period basis.

What are ways that adults can best support children?

Adults can support children throughout middle school by providing executive functioning support in the early years with an emphasis on letting the student adopt whatever organization system works for them as they progress through middle school. Adults can keep their eye on time management, avoid overscheduling, and keep over-achieving in check because not everyone excels in all subjects and activities. It is important for middle schoolers to begin to sort out their own interests and talents and be given the latitude to pick their own electives, activities, and navigate their friendship choices/challenges as they grow. So supporting self-advocacy and self-knowledge while letting students make mistakes and learn from them is a crucial goal for the adults in the lives of middle schoolers. One last way that adults can help is to teach middle schoolers to know their feelings, speak about their feelings, and share their feelings with others so that we are growing well-rounded, “whole” people who are adept at making connections and caring for others.

What else would you like to share with the community regarding wellness?

The Wellness focus is another way to take care of the Whole Child and that is a lofty goal to always focus on in this very academic world.


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