Scoggins Middle School Counselor Jody Clark is the Texas School Counselor Association (TSCA) Junior High/Middle School Counselor of the Year for 2016-17.
The award recognizes school counselors who have a tremendous impact on students and make extraordinary contributions to their campus community.
Scoggins Principal Barbara Warner and co-counselor Christie Combest conspired to nominate Clark for the award. Warner says she wanted to nominate both Clark and Combest as a team because they work so well together. But when Combest first suggested nominating Clark, Warner heeded her suggestion.
“When Ms. Clark sees a need, she works hard to figure out a way to meet that need,” Warner said. “She is continually seeking ways to learn and grow, and to better serve our middle school students through supportive and often innovative programming. She also builds extremely positive relationships with our students, families and staff members. She and her partner counselor, Christie Combest, are an outstanding team, and we are so fortunate to have them at Scoggins.”
Clark says she knew she wanted to work with kids from a young age. Prior to becoming a counselor, she taught kindergarten.
“Pine Cove camps made a big impact on my life,” she said. “I want to make a difference in kids’ lives. I loved teaching, but I wanted to work on campus where I could work with different ages and groups of kids.”
Counselors have that opportunity, Clark said.
Getting everyone – students, educators, and the community – on the same team seems to be a theme for Clark. During her years at Scoggins, she and the campus administration have implemented several programs to improve the social and emotional skills of Scoggins students.
One of those programs is S.O.A.R., which stands for Support, Outreach, Achievement and Recreation. S.O.A.R. is a Tuesday afternoon program designed to give sixth-grade students an after-school activity that helps them adjust to middle school. The students enjoy snacks, work on homework and connect with caring adults during recreation time.
“Sixth graders don’t have as many things to do after school as seventh and eighth graders,” Clark said, referring to athletics and clubs. The idea of S.O.A.R. is to create an activity that would help the sixth graders acclimate to middle school. Her volunteers include other faculty, members from community partner Brookhaven Church, and even occasionally former Scoggins students.
Scoggins has also begun its own campus-based girls’ empowerment program, called #ScogginsStrongGirls. The school visited a few one-day events in the area in past years, but chose to implement their own program that was more extensive, specific to their students’ needs and included a day of activities, as well as follow-up service projects. Clark has been a part of that team effort.
Brenda Berry, Frisco ISD director of guidance and counseling, has been very complimentary of the programs coming out of Scoggins.
“It is all very exciting – the girls’ empowerment program and the Tuesday afternoon program,” she said. “It is all just great.”
Clark is excited about winning the counseling award from the state organization. She attended a TSCA conference and heard J.C. Pohl talk about using students as peer coaches because middle school students often listen to their peers better than they listen to adults.
She has implemented the Rising Up Mentoring program, in which 25 eighth grade students have been trained to mentor sixth graders about setting goals, choices and consequences and other social and emotional health topics. The counselors train the eighth grade mentors on a Tuesday and then they go work with the younger students on Thursdays. Clark will present with Pohl at a conference in January to share this program with other counselors and how they can implement it in their schools.
“The teachers are still in the classroom, while the coaches are talking to their peers,” Clark said. “So far the feedback from staff and students is really good."
Though Clark may have earned the title Counselor of the Year, she is very gracious in her appreciation for all of the Scoggins staff, as well as the guidance and counseling staff in Frisco ISD. She may have won the award, but she gives credit to her counseling peers in FISD, as well as Scoggins and District administrators for their leadership and support.