New Space for Tech Counselors Adds to Collaborative Environment

November 14, 2017

For Tech school counselors and staff, nothing is more important than getting students the help they need as soon as they need it. That is one reason the staff is excited to be housed all in the same space, with a move this year that makes it so students can easily get the attention they need even if their particular counselor or staff member is not immediately available.
The new area, located on the first floor of the main Tech Center building on the PNW BOCES campus, includes a conference-style space in the center with each counselor and team member’s office on the perimeter. The team includes school counselors Karen Carey, Gerry Battista and Maggie Almonte; special education services provider Amanda Keenan; and social worker Stephanie Carnes.
“The new space allows us to really be together and work as a team,” said Carnes. “It makes it much easier for us to work collaboratively.”
Because the new area is spacious, “We can offer workshops, schedule speakers, and run groups,” according to Battista. “We are also able to keep students who are having a bad day or need some time and space to refocus themselves, so that they can get through their class or day.” 
Carey counsels students in the Health Academy, New Visions programs and Urban Forestry. Almonte counsels English Language Learner Academy, Business Academy, Transportation Academy and Construction Academy students. Battista counsels students in the Hospitality Academy, Communications Academy, Cosmetology Academy and Teaching Career Academy.
“The best part about our new space is that students can always find one of us, even if we are with another student,” said Almonte.
Battista agrees. “I really think this change has been helpful to the students and to the staff. All of us have different strengths and abilities, so now we have more resources at our fingertips.  It increases our ability to support the students and each other.”
School counselors help students with everything from class selection to career planning and the college application process. Additionally, they set up guest speakers on everything from bullying prevention to finances and more. “Our teachers say that the two things students want most are professional guest speakers and information about financial aid,” according to Carey.
Almonte recently arranged for a Bank of New York representative to speak with students about financial responsibility. “It is really important for them to learn as much as they can about this topic,” she said.
Amanda Keenan, who provides special education services, works with students who have Individual Education Plans by pushing in to their classrooms as well as working one-on-one with them outside of class. “I help students put together portfolios and do daily check-ins with life level students to make sure they are on track,” Keenan said.
Stephanie Carnes, a bilingual licensed clinical social worker, provides mental health services to students. She has training in trauma treatment and is particularly helpful to ENL students who have had difficult experiences in their home countries. She also provides weekly therapy sessions to any students who ask for it. “The great thing about my job,” Carnes said, “is that I work with students who want my help.”
“Having Stephanie with us in the same space also makes it easier and faster to address crisis situations and get the students the help that they need,” said Battista. Carey agrees. “Having her with us has been tremendously helpful,” she said.
The new space also allows the staff to confer and compare notes on students who overlap with their services as well as give each other advice. Says Battista, “As the school year continues we will be able to plan and brainstorm additional ways to utilize the space and support the students.  It’s been a really nice addition for us.”
The Tech counseling team: Maggie Almonte, Karen Carey, Gerry Battista, Amanda Keenan, and Stephanie Carnes