School counselors and career coaches aren’t always given the credit they deserve in students’ success stories. They may not stand in front of a class and teach lessons, but they do teach students invaluable lessons about believing in themselves, goal setting, and taking practical steps toward post-grad success. Relationship building is at the core of a counselor’s job, and Ms. Joanne Krett, a career coach at Woodland Hills High School, does an exemplary job of connecting with students.
An Exemplary Leader
The Consortium for Public Education worked with Krett during our HBCU mentoring program. I noticed how she enthusiastically greeted each student by name and routinely asked them how they were doing in and outside of school. Not only was she friendly, but she really listened — as the weeks passed, we saw Krett follow up with students about specific scholarships, programs, and connections related to their interests and post-graduation goals. She was simply a cheerleader for their success. This week, we interviewed Krett about her position and legacy at Woodland Hills High School.
The Counselor’s Role in Equity and Engagement
Krett entered the role of career coach after working for many years as a literacy coach. In both positions, Krett has enjoyed observing students and giving them the vocabulary to describe their talents. “It’s liberation,” she explains, “I see a gift that you don’t see in yourself and I give it language … I might say I think you have a helper’s heart or you have a protective personality or you have a servant leadership style.” With all the anxieties and social politics of high school, it is special to have an ally like Krett that really sees you and acknowledges your individuality. Beyond validation, Krett guides students to endless resources and helps them take advantage of them. Her goal is to “cast the widest net possible” when it comes to career exploration — she’s taken students everywhere from trade schools to colleges to sites as niche as Tom Savini’s School of Movie Makeup. No dream is too large or obscure when Krett has your back.
For many first-generation students, attending a four-year college seems like an unattainable dream. This opportunity gap is where many counselors, including Krett, play a crucial role in equity. She helps demystify the college application process for many first-generation students and helps them leverage financial aid so they are best set up for success. “You will never walk alone,” she says.
Krett will be retiring from her position as career coach this year and has large shoes to fill. In her final weeks, she reflects on her favorite part of her job: when she connects kids with an opportunity and they take advantage: “It is thrilling when you coach them in a job interview and they come back the next day to tell you they got the job. What can be more rewarding than helping a kid reach his/her/their full potential?” Krett has reached many students at Woodland Hills and is leaving an immense legacy of kindness, hard work, and equitable outcomes for students.
Opportunities for Reflection
- School Administrators: The average student-to-counselor ratio is 408:1 even though they have an incredibly important role in equity. Half of their role is working directly with students and the other half is marketing the plethora of resources available for students. How can we lessen this burden on counselors? Is there room to hire more counselors and decrease this ratio?
- Teachers: Do your students know the extent of opportunities available to them at the counselor’s office? How can you inform them and encourage them to take advantage even early on in their high school career?