As the counselor at Indian Creek Elementary School in Olathe, Cristi Wightman is most comfortable quietly working behind the scenes to help others. But now she finds herself thrust into the spotlight since she has been named the Kansas representative for the American School Counselor Association 2016 School Counselor of the Year program. She is the only representative chosen from the state.
Wightman was named the Kansas School Counselor of the Year last year by the Kansas School Counselor Association. As the recipient of that award in 2014, Wightman received an automatic nomination to be the Kansas representative for the American School Counselor Association 2016 School Counselor of the Year program.
The mission of the School Counselor of the Year program is to honor school counselors for their devotion to being advocates to the nation’s students so that they can achieve success both in school and in life. Wightman will travel to Washington, D.C., in January to be formally honored at a ceremony at the White House.
She’s looking forward to the trip for a number of reasons.
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“The opportunity to go and meet other school counselors from others states is tremendous,” Wightman said. “To learn from them and ask them about their programs is exciting. Otherwise I wouldn’t have that opportunity to talk to school counselors from 48 states. And the chance to go to the White House is very exciting.”
As the counselor at Indian Creek Elementary School for the past nine years, Wightman’s job responsibilities have been lengthy. Much of her time is spent giving classroom instruction to her students on a wide range of topics. Right now, she is focusing her lessons on how to help students understand different behavioral responses to conflict.
“I teach them what assertive, aggressive and passive behavior responses look like,” Wightman said. “I spend a lot of time role-playing so that the students can experience what it looks like to be put on the spot and so they can practice an assertive response.”
But her work doesn’t end in the classroom. Wightman also assists homeless families, helps families find school supplies, heads up the Harvester’s BackSnack program at her school and ensures that families at her school have access to meals and gifts during the holidays. She also coordinates Indian Creek’s schoolwide mentor program called Bobcat Families.
Indian Creek Elementary School Principal Liz Harrison calls Wightman an essential member of the school’s family.
“Christi continuously works to support not only our students and their families, but our staff as well,” Harrison said in a written statement. “We are so lucky to have Cristi at Indian Creek.”
Wightman said she feels fortunate to be part of the Indian Creek Elementary School community. She said she enjoys the work she does as a school counselor.
“I love the opportunity to create connections with the students and to help support them,” Wightman said. “I enjoy the opportunity to provide love and encouragement and also the challenge of problem solving and finding solutions to help the kids become more successful.”
Wightman said that working as a cohesive team with the rest of the educators at her school is very important to her. She feels strongly that school counselors aren’t just valuable to students but to all of the stakeholders in a school, including parents and staff.
Wightman considers it an honor to work alongside a wonderful group of school counselors in her school district who all support the students.
While Wightman is pleased to be honored for her work as a counselor, what brings her the most joy are the daily opportunities to help students. She treats every day as an opportunity to inspire someone.
“Each day there are different challenges and each day we are working to figure out how to best support the students so that they feel loved, happy and supported here,” Wightman said.
Sara Beane: firstname.lastname@example.org