April Staff Spotlight

               Headlines such as “COVID is Having a Devastating Impact on Children”, “How COVID-19 is Changing the World’s Future”, and “Social Media Permanently Alters a Generation” have saturated the news reels in the past year. While adults struggle to cope in a tumultuous time, it is easy to forget that children are experiencing anxiety and depression at a rate never recorded in history. At Licking R-VIII School District, staff members have not forgotten, and we are extraordinarily fortunate to have three professionals working daily to coax young people through personal and family experiences, growth and development challenges, and the influences of an ever-changing world. Mrs. Stephens, Mrs. Green, and Mrs. Keeney make up our guidance and counseling department, and their tireless contributions to our community are recognized in this month’s Spotlight Staff of the Month.

                In the words of Mrs. Keeney, “It takes a village to raise our children”. Mrs. Stephens, Mrs. Green, and Mrs. Keeney communicate with all stakeholders – parents, staff, and community members – to create solutions for children and families. “We are a strong team because of each of our different strengths…we complement each other well,” Mrs. Green reflected. Mrs. Stephens works as the district’s elementary counselor and special education director, Mrs. Green serves as junior high counselor and testing coordinator, and Mrs. Keeney works with high school students and holds the title of A+ Coordinator. In fact, none of these ladies has just ONE responsibility. Each covers many duties any given day – some on paper, many not in print. “Responsive services fill the bulk of our days,” the counselors shared, “we help students with social interactions, provide crisis management and response, provide group and individual counseling, assist with conflict resolution, and help young people and adults with pandemic impact”. While each of the counselors wish they had more time for in-class lessons, their priority is handling the needs immediately in front of them. In fact, putting others’ needs ahead of their own leaves little time even for restroom breaks!

                “We are seeing more anxiety in students than ever,” Mrs. Keeney reacted. “High school students are requesting more frequent grade checks; they feel pressure to balance work lives, family lives, and school requirements. Young people are feeling a loss of a sense of control this year, just the same as, maybe even more than, adults. We’re here to help them through this,” agreed each of the counselors.

                “What’s interesting is more and more individuals are experiencing an inability to function with other people in the world as a result of lengthy isolation, uncertainty, and the weight of social media,” Mrs. Green reflected. “There is less human interaction and more weight placed on the opinions shared online. Even the absence of interaction on social media impacts the self-esteem of our children,” Mrs. Green shared. While young people cannot always identify the source of their anxiety, it is important for them to feel safe at school. Our team of counselors works hard to build this safety net. Mrs. Stephens, Mrs. Green, and Mrs. Keeney have added emphasis on improving school climate, building an inclusive culture, adding activities during Kindness Week, promoting anti-bullying campaigns, teaching conflict resolution techniques, and providing mental health activities in collaboration with classroom teachers. Licking School District’s counselors participate in networking opportunities to grow their professionalism and influence throughout the community. Through ongoing coursework, Missouri Counselors social media groups, Frisco League collaboration opportunities, and annual conferences, counselors gain new strategies and share resources for serving families in need.

                  While our counseling department continues to evolve as the world changes, these three professionals build tradition in the community. Each graduates of Licking High School, they agree with Mrs. Stephens, “This is our home. This position challenges me, but I remember some of the most influential people in my life being on this campus. I am so thankful that my children can now grow up here and I can pay back many of these rich opportunities”.

                “This is a hard job,” they say, “but we’re here for the community. There are great benefits to being members of the community of Licking, and some days it feels like a dream that we may be adults who help set young people on their own path to success”. From locating supplemental food resources, to furnishing homes after disaster, and nurturing each child they meet, our community is blessed with Mrs. Stephens, Mrs. Green, and Mrs. Keeney. “We couldn’t do it without our families beside us,” each agrees. Mrs. Stephens is wife to Jimmie Stephens, and mother to Aubrie, Austin, Avery, and Audie. Mrs. Green is wife to Greg Green, and mother to Dawson Havens, Alyssa and Josh Alvers, and Evan Green. Mrs. Keeney is proud mother to Devin and Lindsay, Emery and Dakota, Elijah, and Paxten, and proud grandmother to Paisley, Pierclynn, and new baby Keeney coming in August. Licking R-VIII School District extends our appreciation to each of these ladies and the love and support of their families in this edition of Spotlight Staff of the Month.