The Austin Independent School District employs more than 200 counselors who serve our 129 campuses daily. AISD counselors play a tremendous role in helping our students achieve succcess and plan for the future.
On the eve of National School Counselors Week, Feb. 4-8, MyAISD sits down with one the district's talented counselors to learn the ins and outs of her job, what inspired her to become a counselor and what she loves most about serving AISD students.
Shannon Bergeron, Counselor at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy
Number of Years as a Counselor: 9
Number of Years with AISD: 2
What made you want to be a counselor?
After working in the corporate music industry for five years, I realized that I wanted (and needed) my work to have more personal meaning. As a first-generation college student, I know firsthand how challenging it can be to graduate from college. I want to be that support that I never had while growing up. Being a great counselor means developing trust and building relationships with students.
What attracted you to your job in AISD?
When my family and I moved from rural Maine to Austin three years ago, I knew that I wanted to live and work in an urban setting. I absolutely love Austin!
What is a typical workday for you?
One of the things I love most about counseling is that there is not a typical workday. One day might include college advising, connecting a homeless student to local resources, advising the Knitting Club, talking about relationship issues, collaborating with teachers, giving a presentation, running a 504 meeting, a suicide assessment, answering academic questions, and talking with parents. It is a terrific feeling to know at the end of the day, I’m making a difference in kids’ lives.
What is the most exciting aspect of your job?
The exciting part comes when I get the opportunity to see a student’s personal growth and watch them achieve their goals. I also work with the most incredible counseling team. We are all driven, have high energy, and have created a culture where counseling is valued among students, parents, staff and community members. It’s so exciting to feel like we are making a significant difference.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
It can be challenging to watch a student struggle through a tough issue. Whether it is a family situation, a personal crisis, health issue, or any other serious circumstance, there are times when no matter what we do at school, it only puts a band-aid on the situation. Knowing that I cannot change a child’s entire circumstance is the most challenging part for me.
What’s the best advice anyone has given you?
Work hard and play hard, find balance in life, and always do more than anyone expects you to do. Last year, I started running, and have completed three half marathons. This spring I will compete in my first triathlon. One of my coaches always says, “You are stronger than you think you are,” and this has stuck with me through miles and miles of training.
What advice do you find yourself most commonly giving to students?
I think it is our role as counselors to help students find their own solutions. That said, I find myself encouraging students to find balance, dream big, work hard, follow their passions, and explore this fantastic world.
Who was your favorite teacher growing up and why?
Mrs. Benton was my third grade teacher. I loved her because I always felt special and important in her classroom, like I was her favorite. I don’t know how she did it, but I think everyone felt that way in her class.
What are you most excited about for the 2013 spring semester?
We are fortunate to work with some of the most amazing students on the planet. It is such a thrill to celebrate college acceptances and scholarship awards, especially with first-generation students. We have a cowbell in the office that we ring every time there is an acceptance and we display fun pictures of our seniors with their acceptances along the senior hallway.
What’s your proudest accomplishment as a counselor?
A few years ago, I had a student who all but dropped out of high school after her best friend died of brain cancer. I tried everything to get her back in school for more than a year. Finally, after I told her I was moving to Texas, she promised she would finish school if I would come watch her walk across the stage. That next summer, I flew to Maine to watch this young lady receive that diploma!
What’s your favorite book?
I love to read anything by John Steinbeck, Malcolm Gladwell, Barbara Kingsolver, and Jodi Picoult. I also love “Freakonomics.”