With Ripley Middle School Counselor Susan Jones, it begins with trust.
“I believe the very basis of everything we do must start on the firm foundation of a relationship. It’s been said kids don’t care what we know ‘til they know that we care. For our middle schoolers this begins when I visit each of their fifth-grade classrooms, answering questions, debunking fears, and explaining my role,” Jones said. “This is time well-vested in establishing a trusting student-counselor relationship for the next three years. Whether I’m leading a whole group character education or career exploration program, or working with individual students who have suffered trauma or are failing, our counseling program can be effective and successful because of that firm foundation of trust.”
For over 30 years, Jones has been working with students in Jackson County, the first three years as an educator. As a beginning teacher, she experienced firsthand how trauma affects learning.
“During my first year of teaching, I had a first grader whose dad passed away unexpectedly. There were no school counselors, psychologists, or any other support personnel in those days. Our county only had high school ‘guidance counselors.’ The mental health needs of students and the academics of school were light years apart. I began taking counseling night classes the very next semester! I wanted to be prepared to help any future students who might encounter trauma. Soon after acquiring my master’s in school counseling, our county established two elementary counselor positions, and I was asked to come on board.”
As an educator on the frontier of school counseling in Jackson County, Jones said her primary goal has always been to support the academic and social/emotional success of her students.
“Currently, a large percentage of our students are being raised by a single caregiver, often a grandparent, or they live in families suffering from poverty or drug addiction. Counselors help bridge the gap between those overwhelming challenges and our students’ success. The support of a caring school counselor, built on the foundation of a solid relationship, can make such a profound difference. That passion is what drives me every day,” Jones said. “We chose this career path because we deeply care! Most of us began as teachers, and we are trained with specific skills to work collaboratively with parents, teachers, and children to reach a common goal. However, we can’t help if we don’t know, so it’s very important for parents to tell us if there’s been a significant event that might hinder a student’s learning.”
Because of leadership and support she has received, Jones said is very confident in the future of school counseling in West Virginia.
“I am the most blessed human being on the planet. I have clear guidance from the WVDE and WVCSCA, unwavering support from the administration of Jackson County Schools, a community who provides whatever I ask, and colleagues at RMS who work tirelessly alongside me in this ‘village.’ I have enjoyed such a long and gratifying career doing what I absolutely love to do – helping kids become successful citizens of our world.”
Jones obtained her LPC and NCC long before national certification was compensated to be a stronger advocate for children in circuit and family court. She shares four grown sons with her husband, and she has worked in church youth music ministries her entire life.