School Counselor, Author of The Stylish School Counselor
About Melanie: Melanie Acker has just completed her 11th year in education. She has been a Kindergarten teacher, 1st Grade dual language teacher, elementary counselor, middle school counselor, middle school assistant principal, and now elementary assistant principal. She is grateful to have had such wonderful opportunities and have learned so much from amazing teams.
She is a wife, mother of two, and loves spending time with her family. When not with them, she enjoys reading (with a Starbucks in hand), doing yoga, shopping on a budget, and baking.
She also loves blogging about her educational journey, new things she learns, and with a hint of fashion. She also loves networking with fellow educators, growing her Personal Learning Network (PLN), and learning new things. She believe we have to constantly be learning if we expect the same for our students.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] When and why did you originally create The Stylish School Counselor?
[Melanie Acker] I started The Stylish School Counselor in 2012 with two posts and after that I began blogging more. At the time, I was a first year elementary school counselor at a very diverse school. We were a campus that had a high English language learner population and it was also a campus that refugees new to the country would attend. It was an amazing experience. I found that due to the population and also the high needs, I had to get creative in the counseling activities I used. As I searched for resources, I was surprised that there were not as many things out there for elementary school counselors.
As a teacher, I had followed teaching blogs and found so many useful ideas that I could immediately integrate into my teaching so I thought, “Why not create the very same thing for counselors?” I wanted to share the ideas that I found and that I was actually putting into practice with others who may be in the same boat as me (looking for easy, engaging, and kid friendly lessons). I wanted to share my journey as I learned new things along the way. What I didn’t know is that it would create an amazing opportunity to network and build friendships with counselors across the country.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] What do you hope to achieve by maintaining your blog?
[Melanie Acker] I hope to inspire other counselors or those who hope to be counselors. I want to share resources that they can use and simple ideas that are realistic for counselors to use, since we all know counselors wear many hats. I also hope the blog is a place that educators (teachers, administrators, school psychologists, etc.) can find something to use or be inspired by. I especially enjoy receiving messages or emails from counselors that enjoyed a product or activity that I shared on the blog, that is what I hope educators experience from reading The Stylish School Counselor.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] What has been your most challenging experience as a school counselor to date? How have you responded to or overcome it?
[Melanie Acker] I think one of the most challenging experiences has been the feeling of wanting to do it all and not being able to at times. As a counselor, you have so many things on your plate and many of those things you can’t push aside. For me, it was trying to balance everything. I always want to do the very best that I can at anything I do. As a counselor (and even now), a struggle is shutting it off. When you have students who are weighing on your heart and you have 100 other things on your list that you want to complete, it can be hard. I overcame it by being smart with my time and looking at my top priorities. If I had a student who didn’t feel safe or was having a crisis, they would be my number one priority. I started creating lists that can only be completed at school (working with students, supporting staff, meetings) and a list of things I could do at home. I would make sure to complete the first list and then set a time after school to complete the rest or take home. Everyone has to find a system that works best for them but I think finding a balance that works for you is key.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] What is your biggest inspiration for your blog posts?
[Melanie Acker] My biggest inspiration for my posts comes from a couple of different places. If someone emails me a question or asking for a specific topic post, I try to provide what blog readers want and need. But a lot of my posts come from what is on my heart at work, what issues students may be facing, or what I feel inspired by because that is ultimately what I want to share with readers.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] When and why did you decide to make the transition from being a teacher to being a school counselor?
[Melanie Acker] Teaching was a passion of mine and I absolutely loved it yet I always knew I wanted to have the opportunity to impact students on a whole school level. I knew that I wanted to be able to support students through tough times that I didn’t have the opportunity to do as a teacher. Honestly, I was inspired by my high school counselor (Mrs. Newcomb). My freshman year, I had a friend suddenly pass away. I had never dealt with a death of someone close to my age before. My counselor was so supportive and I had never experienced that kind of support where I could share my feelings and feel completely comfortable at school. It was a tough experience to get through but it had opened my eyes to how vital a school counselor is in students’ lives.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] In a post from October 2016 you let your readers know that you’d settled into your new role as elementary assistant principal. What prompted that switch, and what have you taken from your previous positions as a teacher and school counselor?
[Melanie Acker] I had actually transitioned to the role of an assistant principal in 2015 at the middle school level and last year at the elementary level. I was loving my role as a counselor but had been working on my administration certification because I wanted to impact students in a new way. I saw that administrators were instructional leaders (which I am also passionate about) and seemed to work with a lot of discipline. In my mind, I was thinking it would be an amazing experience to be able to use my past counseling skills to work with those students, support teachers, and collaborate with school leaders to make an impact in the school and the community. Luckily, I had the opportunity to serve as an assistant principal at the school I was a counselor at. We all worked so collaboratively that it was such a smooth transition. I think what has guided me as an administrator is understanding where teachers are coming from (from being a past teacher) and also having the counseling skills to truly listen, build relationships, and be fair in decision making. It has really given me a whole understanding, although I am learning new things every day.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] What advice would you give to others making that career change?
[Melanie Acker] If someone is reflecting on whether they want to go into administration, I would say look at all aspects to see if that is where your heart is. I definitely love it. I have learned that in order to lead, you must serve. You must also be humble because every experience is new and you are learning each day from others. There are many similarities in counseling and being an administrator (supporting staff, students, parents and building relationships and wearing many hats) but they are also very different roles. I would suggest shadowing an administrator so that you can experience first-hand what it looks like to see if that is where you heart is.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] Is there anything else you’d like to add?
[Melanie Acker] As you enjoy your summer, take time to remember your “why” and write it down. As the year starts, everything will go so fast and you will hit the ground running. When things get hard or so busy you forget why you’re doing what you’re doing….you can pull out a piece of paper with your “why” on it and it brings everything into focus.
Thank you, Melanie! Learn more about The Stylish School Counselor on our Counseling Blogs list.