Skip to page content

School gives counseling students field experience

  |   Kristen B. Morales   |   Permalink   |   Spotlight

Future school counselors are getting real world experience to prepare for their careers thanks to a partnership between the University of Georgia and Rutland Academy, Northeast Georgia's educational and therapeutic school in Clarke County.

One day a week, graduate students in Jolie Daigle's service-learning class meet at Rutland Academy, in west Athens, to work with students with emotional/behavioral disabilities who haven't been successful in traditional school settings. The UGA students offer social skills training to the students, providing counseling through the classroom.

After the class time with the Rutland students, the UGA students meet with Daigle, an associate professor in the College of Education's Department of Counseling and Human Development Services, for their academic training and to review cases.

"Just having that experience of being able to face these different challenges is what will make us really good counselors in the future, because we are getting a whole different experience than most programs would offer their master's students." said Zyra Beaty, a first-year Master of Education student from Atlanta

Students in kindergarten through high school are referred to Rutland because they have emotional or behavioral disabilities that interfere with their academic progress.

The academic curriculum follows Georgia Performance Standards, with positive therapeutic supports to help students manage their behavior. The UGA students reinforce the social skills the students are learning at Rutland through planned lessons, role-playing activities and individual support.

Working with the Rutland students helps the future school counselors learn how to develop relationships with students and understand the triggers of their behavior. Over time they get to know the students individually and can better assess—and address—the student's needs.

"We're learning a little bit more about them as people," said Hillary Turner, 24, a first-year Master of Education student from Canton. "You know, what are they coming in with? What are they leaving with here? We're able to see them as a whole person and to take note of that and learn how to apply classroom guidance."

Since 2013, 36 UGA students have participated in the service-learning program at Rutland Academy. Prior to the partnership, Rutland Academy did not have school counselors because of limited funding.

"It's been great. It's an extra set of eyes, hands and support for both the teacher as well as the student in the classroom," Rutland Academy Director Najma Hunter said.

Rutland Academy is part of the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support.

—Angela Seal, Public Service and Outreach

© University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602