Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of stories featuring Elmore County teachers.
Counselor Jenifer Andrews believes the job she holds at Eclectic Elementary School came to her through divine intervention.
“I do not think anything made me wanted to change jobs,” she said. “I think God put it here, honestly. Looking back, I think it just fell into place for me to be here.”
Andrews started her career in education as a speech pathologist and worked in that position for 12 years at several elementary schools.
“I had a wonderful assistant principal who just pushed and got me back in college,” Andrews said. “I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I went back to college. I first went for collaborative education. Then, the good Lord pointed me toward counseling and I’ve loved it ever since.”
Andrews has been the school’s counselor for 18 years and she has no plans to retire after 30 years in education.
“I prayed (God would) put me where I can be used the most,” she said. “When I got here, everything fell into place. These kids give me more than I could ever give them. I really do not know when I’m going to retire.”
According to the American School Counselor Association, a primary responsibility of elementary school counselors is to help students develop social/emotional skills in response to issues they face.
Andrews is doing just that in a variety of different ways.
“Right now we are working on coping skills,” she said. “I asked the students ways to cope with a difficult situation. ‘You can pray or talk to people you trust to help,’ they said. As adults, if we just started out with that simple way of looking at life, think of all the things we would not have to worry about in this world.”
Andrews wants her students to be informed of the dangers of things like tobacco and alcohol now, so when they get older and some asks if they want to try a cigarette they will have the information to know smoking it a detriment to one’s health and have the tools to cope with peer pressure.
Last week Elmore County Schools special education supervisor/mental health lead Rashawn Blassingame hosted a professional development course for the county’s school counselors that covered mental health issues affecting students. Andrews said she does see students at the elementary school level in need of help.
“(Blassingame) is the piece of the puzzle to help kids get the mental health assistance they need,” Andrews said. “She’s bringing things to Elmore County we have never focused on. Mental health issues have no age. It can start young.”
At the end of the day, it is the energy of the students that keeps her engaged.
“My babies here teach me everything from being humble to seeing things with no worries,” Andrews said. “There are many things these kids teach me. I spoke with one former student a few nights ago. He was so mature and could carry on such a wonderful conversation about life.”