Children at Weaverville Elementary can turn to their nationally recognized school counselor for guidance and compassionate care.
The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recognized Weaverville school counselor Jayme Benfield for her comprehensive counseling program, which includes guiding students in behavior, attendance, nutrition and health, as well as offering services for teachers, parents and administrators.
ASCA awarded Weaverville and eight other North Carolina public schools with its Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) designation, meaning those schools meet the criteria in the ASCA National Model.
“This is the first school and the only school in Western North Carolina to receive RAMP designation,” said David Thompson, BCS director of Student Services. “It’s significant. All the others that received it this year were Wake County Schools.”
The designation demonstrates Buncombe County Schools’ (BCS) commitment to providing the highest quality counseling services to students, and to be an example to educators across the nation.
Weaverville delivers a comprehensive, data-driven program for its students, according to ASCA officials. Benfield spends at least 80 percent of her time working directly and indirectly with programs that support her students.
“One thing that’s great about being a school counselor is you have access to all students,” she said. “So the students get to know me as I visit them and lead classroom lessons like improving character, preventing bullying or becoming a more successful student. I also do small group counseling on different topics and individualized counseling.”
Students can drop off notes outside Benfield’s door when they need to speak to her, and she visits teachers to support them in planning effective lessons. She also coordinates with outside mentors who build supportive relationships with children outside of school.
But what sets Weaverville’s program apart – and what got the attention of ASCA – is Benfield’s focus on data, said Weaverville principal Heidi Allison.
“She routinely looks at student data through our Educator’s Handbook system or through individual behavior charts that the teacher has made, tracking to see what times of the day the student needs support,” she said. “She really is focused on utilizing that data to see what the student needs.”
Because of her close data tracking, Benfield said she quickly sees when a normally well-performing student starts to flag. “I may go in and observe that student in the classroom or sit down with the teacher to work on interventions,” she said.
Since Weaverville is a Leader in Me school, the students get involved too. Benfield asks them to write self-improvement goals and stick to them.
“Every student has the potential to grow, not comparing that to anyone but themselves,” she said.
Because of a three-year Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, BCS has a school counselor at every elementary school.
“By being in one location, she can be truly invested in meeting the needs of the students, the staff, parents and the community,” Allison said.
BCS is in the third year of the three-year grant, and administration officials support continued funding for counselors at every elementary school.
“Our students’ social, emotional and mental health needs are crucial to their academic success and for them to be successful in their lives,” Thompson said. “The work of the school counselor compliments the work of the school teacher, and it creates the conditions where students can be successful.”
Prior to working at Weaverville, Benfield served as the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support coordinator for BCS.
All RAMP schools will be honored at a recognition ceremony at ASCA’s annual conference in Denver, Colorado, on Monday, July 10, 2017.