At TPT, we’re lucky to have a community of incredibly dedicated educators with a wide range of expertise, knowledge, and experience to share. As part of our Teacher Voices series, we had the chance to speak with Traci from the College Counselor Studio about the challenges older students are facing this year and the ways educators can support students as they prepare for college, careers, and life beyond K-12. (Note: This interview, originally conducted in 2020, was updated with the Teacher-Author for 2023.)
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I’ve worked in education for 16 years, including as a College & Career Awareness Coordinator for middle and high school districts and as an elementary substitute teacher for two years! Third grade was my favorite.
Tell us a bit about you and your background.
My name is Traci Ebue! I’ve been happily married to a fellow educator for seven years, and I’m the mama of a busy toddler! So trust me when I say I know time with family is everything! When I’m not creating resources for counselors (as I’ve been for the past eight years), I work as a full-time counselor for a community college. I’m also a Professor and mainly teach introduction to college, college success strategies, and career planning classes every semester.
What drove you to become a college counselor?
Through my personal experience as an African-American woman and first-generation college student from a low socioeconomic background, I did not have any grand plans for my life. I just wanted a stable job to support my future family and not struggle. My passion for serving students and this career path results from a great middle school teacher and counselor, who believed in my educational journey before I thought I would have one. That one year of interaction and support changed my life.
Therefore, I’m paying it forward to impact student lives the way a great teacher and counselor impacted mine. Working in a community college allows me to serve simultaneously as a counselor and teacher. I love them both, and each is incredibly fulfilling in different ways. Community college is a second chance for many students of all ages and backgrounds. I know what that second chance feels like and could mean for them.
Can you tell us more about your approach to counseling middle and high school students?
My pedagogy embodies a constructivist and reflective framework. This approach means that I instill a sense of trust in the classroom and counseling office for students to express themselves freely and validate how they construct knowledge. Then, I guide students through self-reflection via inquiry. I help students reflect on what they do, why they do it, and where that thinking comes from. I also help them assess if that method is working for them. I hold no answers for any student. They are the superheroes in their own life; I am simply the guide that helps them through the journey. Students can gain an incredible amount of power from learning that they’re the smartest ones for authorship in their own life while knowing they have someone who supports them. As a counselor, I help teach them how to navigate life well while allowing them the freedom and the euphoric sensation of choosing the direction and outcome.
What have you been focusing on the most this school year, and why?
This school year, I’ve focused on helping my students build strong relationships with other students and staff, and incorporate self-care into their daily routines. Since returning 100% in person on campus, connection to others and their inner selves is the most important aspect for my students and their success in school. I work on helping them build strong social, emotional, and communication skills in my counseling appointments and the classes I teach.
How have the past few months affected your students?
My students have been genuinely resilient in these past few months. They’ve been able to transition from primarily completing college online to a hybrid module of online and in-person college classes. Most of my students have found this approach more successful as they continue to work and study simultaneously.
What kinds of challenges are older students facing during this time?
Older students are feeling the burden from all angles. Some are young parents; some are stand-ins for their parents while they work extra jobs, and are responsible for helping their younger siblings with their classes and homework. They work part-time and full-time jobs while studying and writing essays for their classes. The list goes on. They’e sandwiched between this complex world of student and adult, in a time where many of us can barely do one or the other. And they have no choice but to do it all.
Where might they need the most support from educators?
The support these students need is seen and unseen. Seen support includes scholarships and financial assistance. Our school has given them laptops, hotspots, and books. However, unseen support, which is more subtle, is just as crucial. Students need someone committed to checking in with them regularly to help keep them going. Someone to help them keep track of college application deadlines because they already have so much on their plate. Someone to remind them to go outside and enjoy the sun now and then. Someone to remind them their worth is not a grade, a brand-name school, or whatever social media has told them. They need someone to remind them they’re not behind in life and to keep going.
How can educators best support high school students as they plan for life after school in these uncertain times?
High school students have it tough, no doubt about it. They lost some of their most memorable high school experiences over the last few years. However, if we do this right, they will walk out of this the most resilient bunch ever. When will there be a more appropriate time to learn about what is most important in life than now? What a perfect time to reflect on what career they want to explore, especially after witnessing the job market today. This moment in history can empower them to use their youth and voice to change their community and the world today from the injustices they see in their social media feed.
High school students have now learned skills they will need for life much sooner than most. Who’s to say they aren’t ready for what’s ahead? We need to empower them. Contrary to how they might feel, the time they live in is an asset, not a deficit.
This year has brought about so many changes. What have been some of your biggest challenges and lessons you’ve that you’ve along the way?
The biggest challenge I faced this year as a counselor was navigating the transition from remote virtual counseling to a hybrid model. I needed to manage my time differently all over again, factoring in time for commuting to work and spontaneous social interactions throughout the day. Additionally, I needed to navigate managing online counseling (more emails, phone appointments, Zoom appointments) and in-person counseling services every day.
As an educator, being able to adapt quickly to this change is part of our expertise. It was tough initially, but now I finally have a good rhythm, and providing services for students in various modalities feels awesome.
If there was one thing you wanted other teachers to take away from this interview, what would it be?
I want teachers, counselors, and all educators to know they are “A+” people. This feeling of a “B-” season is challenging, and we will survive through it. Know that you are doing enough.
Last but not least — what’s one thing that makes you smile? 🙂
My husband and my 4-year-old daughter. And coffee. Always coffee.
About Traci from the College Counselor Studio
Greetings fellow counselors and teachers! I have worked in education for 16 years covering K-12, community college, and 4-year universities. I am currently a community college counselor and professor in California. I love what I do! I believe that we can do better together to help students dream beyond K-12. The wildest grade I taught was Kinder as a Substitute Teacher!