Interview with Tracy Jackson, Ph.D.

Counseling Blog Author

School Counselor, Author of The Extraordinary School Counselor

About Tracy: Dr. Tracy L. Jackson is a central office administrator with 20 years of experience in school counseling. She has worked at every level, including high school department chair, and in three states for five different school districts. Currently, she is the Supervisor of Counseling and Guidance for one of the Big Five school districts in the State of New York. Before that, she was the Coordinator of Guidance Services for the 4th largest school district in the Commonwealth of Virginia. She holds a Ph.D. in Counseling from Old Dominion University (ODU) and an endorsement in Administration/Supervision from the University of Virginia. Dr. Jackson is also a National Certified Counselor, a National Certified School Counselor, an Approved Clinical Supervisor, an Education and Vocational Guidance Practitioner and a Distance Credentialed Counselor.

Dr. Jackson is a past president of the Virginia School Counselor Association, served as the Region 2 Administrator for School Counseling and was a featured presenter on academic and career plans for the Virginia Department of Education, and appointed to the review committee for the state's Suicide Prevention Guidelines. She is a past recipient of the 2012 Hampton Roads Counseling Association’s Counselor of the Year, the 2012 Virginia Counseling Association’s Counselor of the Year, the 2013 Practitioner Supervisor of the Year for Chi Sigma Iota, International and a 2015 ODU Darden Fellow recipient. She currently serves as an editorial review board member for the American School Counseling Association’s flagship publication. She has served as a RAMP Reviewer and Special Interest Network (SpIN) Facilitator for the organization. Dr. Jackson’s other interests include guest blogging for Teen Life Media and BluePrint Summer Programs, serving as a book reviewer for Youthlight, Inc., and working as an adjunct assistant professor.

[] When and why did you originally launch The Extraordinary School Counselor?

[Dr. Tracy Jackson] July 18, 2016. I launched The Extraordinary School Counselor so that I could share resources that I discovered and solutions for situations that I encountered as a central office school counselor administrator.

[] What do you hope to achieve by maintaining your blog?

[Dr. Tracy Jackson] To educate school counselors and provide them with information, especially school counselors who do not have a central office school counselor administrator in their school system.

[] We highlighted your popular post, “Free Professional Development,” because it consolidates multiple free resources that busy school counselors can take advantage of as they continue to advance themselves professionally. What has been your preferred method of pursuing professional development opportunities, and why?

[Dr. Tracy Jackson] I like conferences and online professional development. Conferences, because you get the most bang for your buck. You can attend 4-5 sessions a day and actually ask questions and interact with others in the audience. Online, because it provides a space in which to be more reflective and learn at your own pace.

[] One of the first things you note in your biography on your blog is your unique experience of working at every level of education. How has your work at each level influenced your time in other levels?

[Dr. Tracy Jackson] I am very fortunate to have had the experiences I did. Working at every level allows you to experience the totality of a child’s development. It allows you to see how the educational system vertically works and why transition programs from grades 5th to 6th and 8th to 9th are so important and why graduation is really a rite of passage. Starting in elementary and working my way up, truly allowed me to see “big picture” of education. I have been able to see how everything operates and fits together. Being a department chair provided the foundation for my leadership, management and organizational skills, which are necessary in a central office position.

[] In what ways does your current role as the supervisor of one of New York State’s Big Five school districts enable you to advocate for greater awareness, knowledge-sharing, and advancement within the school counseling profession?

[Dr. Tracy Jackson] Being in my current school district has allowed me to advocate for the school counseling profession. It’s teaching others who school counselors are, what we do can, how we help support instruction, attendance and behaviors with preventative services provided through a comprehensive school counseling program. New York just passed a law to mandate school counselors at every level and implement comprehensive school counseling programs in the next few years. This is a very exciting time for school counselors and the profession in New York.

[] Are there any specific areas that you plan to focus on or develop in your advocacy/curriculum development for the 2017-18 academic year? If so, how and why have you chosen those specific focuses?

[Dr. Tracy Jackson] More classroom lessons and presentations. School counselors need to push into the classrooms monthly or at least every six weeks. You can reach so many more students that way. You can provide so much more content. If some students need more help, you can work with them individually to ensure that they understand what was taught. When this preventative practice becomes systemic, it cuts down on responsive services. Also, no master scheduling for school counselors! Can I say it again??? “No master scheduling for school counselors”!!! This is the worst thing an administrator can do. They really think it is a good thing, but it isn’t. It puts the school counselor in a precarious situation with their colleagues as it relates to assigning students to classes. It gives school counselors a false sense of power, for they think they have control, but they really don’t. It takes away valuable time they could be spending planning programs for students at the beginning of the year or even meeting with students, if they have to change the master schedule during the school year. Lastly, it makes school counselors quasi-administrators. Basically, they are doing administrator’s work and school counselors are not receiving the pay, nor do they have the credentials to be an administrator. It's an awful practice. Master scheduling is a vice/assistant principal job. It should be used as a training tool to help them understand how a school building works and functions as it relates to curriculum.

[] Among your many accomplishments, you are also a prolific book reviewer. What are the criteria or qualities you look for in a good book for school-aged children?

[Dr. Tracy Jackson] I look at the book through the school counselor lens. Not the child’s lens. I think about if I read that book to a class or small group, how would I incorporate an activity or meaningful discussion? Is the book too long? What kind of graphics does it have? How easy is the vocabulary? Is the book inclusive to most, if not all students?

[] Is there anything else you’d like to add?

[Dr. Tracy Jackson] I love being a school counselor and absolutely love being a school counselor administrator. My favorite part of my job is helping school counselors become better and advocating for them and our profession. Be sure to join your local or national school counseling association and go to the conferences! As a past state organization president, it is the best thing you can do for your personal growth and development. It helps you stay current and relevant.

Thank you, Tracy! Learn more about The Extraordinary School Counselor on our Top Counseling Blogs list.