Brandi Lewis, M.Ed., LPC is an educator, therapist, speaker, and writer. Brandi loves all things travel, food, and books. She also has a passion for helping people. With over 15 years of experience as an educator and counselor, Brandi has a true gift for engaging people in a way that balances their everyday lives and emotional needs. She is a licensed professional counselor in North Carolina. She is also a graduate of the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida.
Why did you decide to pursue a career as a school counselor? Was it something that always interested you?
I decided to become a school counselor because I had great school counselors along my journey as a student, but also because I'd worked with youth as a college student and I was fascinated by the needs of my students. I have a heart for helping people, and a school counselor always seemed like a way to do that in addition to teaching.
What did your educational journey look like? What degrees or certificates were necessary for your current position?
I began my educational journey as an English teacher in a public high school for 11 years. I have a bachelor's degree in English and secondary education. I also have a master's degree in counselor education. In order to be a school counselor, I needed to have a master's degree in counselor education and counselor's certification in grades PK-12 from our state department of public instruction.
How much time do you spend on continuing education, either as a requirement for your profession or for your own personal growth in the field?
I had a strong desire to become better at my job, so I attended a lot of professional development. In my first year, I attended eight professional development meetings, which met the annual requirement of at least 10 continuing education units.
What did your career trajectory look like after you graduated? How did you end up in your current position?
The employment outlook when I graduated from graduate school wasn't great. I graduated in 2008 in the midst of the great recession. I continued to work as an English teacher while I was in graduate school and, given the job market, it was best to do that.
I wasn't able to find employment for many years after graduation. I learned that school counseling was a very popular field and there was a shortage of jobs because people tend to stay in their positions. I also learned that there are often not enough counseling positions due to budget cuts or the perceived lack of need for school counselors.
What do you love about being in your position?
I love the connections that I am able to make with my students and families. I also love talking to students about college, scholarships, mental health, and learning about their dreams. I also like advocating for kids and showing them that their needs matter.
What are some of the most challenging aspects of your position?
Advocacy for school counselors. Many people do not know what we do. School counselors are the bloodline of schools, in my opinion. We assist each part of a school and aid with student matriculation, but most people do not see us or the value of our work until something is wrong, much like a medical emergency. I think that there should be more advocacy for school counselors to help bring more job opportunities and community partnerships.
The demanding nature of my job is also very challenging because I feel a lot of pressure when my students struggle with graduating or moving on through grade levels.
What advice would you give to individuals considering pursuing a degree and a career in school counseling?
School counseling is a great profession, but it is demanding and not glamorous. Many people will say that school counseling is solely paperwork, but you can definitely make a difference in the life of a student. I would also say that it is helpful to find joy in the work that you do outside of your office by coaching, doing counseling groups, clubs, etc. Those are the things that can remind you of why you work with children if your job gets tough or demanding. Self-care is also essential as well.
What are some of the necessary skills someone considering pursuing a career in school counseling must have to be successful?
Compassion, patience, organization, creativity, and an eye for detail are essential.
What can students do while earning their degrees to best prepare themselves to enter the workforce?
Shadowing a school counselor in practice is helpful because in school, we learn pedagogy and counseling theory, but practical examples of the job are equally as important. Also, it is helpful to volunteer with youth groups or mental health agencies as well, so that you have a realistic and working understanding of behaviors and the concerns of children.
What advice would you give to recent school counselor graduates seeking a job after graduation?
The work that you will do as a school counselor is beneficial to the lives of children. Don't lose the idealism and light that you have as a new graduate, no matter how much people may encourage you to be "more realistic." Schools and kids need refreshing ideas because new ideas are the things that revitalize education and lives.
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