January 28, 2018: Counselor of the Year

Hello, Black River Falls Community! This is Dr. Shelly Severson with the School District of Black River Falls here to share this week’s installment of our Spotlight on Schools!  Today we are going to celebrate one of our staff members that has recently received some incredible statewide recognition!  Sue Leadholm has been a counselor at our high school for the past 23 years, and we couldn’t be more excited for her recent recognition as one of four individuals throughout the state named School Counselor of the Year!  Of those four individuals, one moves forward to represent the Wisconsin School Counselors Association on a national level and will be in the running for American School Counselor Association National Counselor of the Year!  We couldn’t be more proud of the work that she has done serving the students and families of our district and community!

The criteria for the recognition includes some indicators of a counselor's success in his or her chosen profession.  This consists of a demonstrated success in advocating on behalf of all students, creating structures within their schools to set students up for success, as well as a positive impact on their building, district, and greater community.  We can easily look at the work of Mrs. Leadholm and check off those marks!

Within our high school building, Sue has been the driving force behind an advising program for all students, freshmen through seniors.  While the program has been through some modifications over the years, the driving principle has remained the same: a dedicated time to students to connect with the same adult throughout all of their years in high school.  When you consider the life of an elementary student, they have that same teacher all day every day; in middle school, the students rotate around a bit, but still have a homeroom teacher.  When students get to the high school, they may have one teacher their freshman year, and then not see that teacher again.  Their entire day can be spent with a different adult each period.  We found that too many of our students were lacking a connection to school; too few of our students reported that they felt there was an adult that they always knew they could go to when they needed something.  Now students are assigned to an advisor that they meet with first thing in the morning each day.  The group has between 18-22 kids in it and is comprised of students from all four grade levels.  The idea is that this advising group becomes somewhat of a family.  There is now one adult that is looking at a student schedule as a whole picture, as opposed to the English teacher looking only at the English grade, math at math, etc.  It has increased the communication with families as that advisor becomes the “go-to” person for parents to communicate to the school as well.  Mrs. Leadholm works diligently to help make good matches for the advising groups and prepares weekly Academic and Career Planning activities that the advisors are supposed to go over with each of their advisees.  She is a HUGE cheerleader for the success of all students and builds up the advisors, so they play that role as well!

Sue wears many hats throughout the building, but the one thing that is ALWAYS consistent is her positive outlook.  When I say that she is a cheerleader for student success, she is generally a cheerleader for all things good!  Mr. Chambers, the high school principal, wrote on her nomination, "Sue is one of the most positive people I know. Students and staff gravitate to her because of her warm smile and friendly personality. Students know they can trust Sue with their personal issues, and even staff have been known to share their personal concerns with her as well!”

Perhaps some of the community members also know Sue from her days teaching at Western Technical College?  There was recently a change in the law which no longer qualifies Sue as a teacher there, but for many years she was a comforting face for our graduates to see as they entered into their post-secondary education.  

I would describe Sue as a problem solver, a solution seeker, a hard worker, and someone that takes pure joy out of all she does.  I’m so appreciative that she chooses to share all of this sunshine in the School District of Black River Falls.  I couldn’t be more proud of the work that she does and am thrilled that she is receiving this external recognition!  We truly have so many exceptional staff members that are deserving of a day just meant to honor them!  When you see Sue, or any of our exceptional staff around town, please tell them Congratulations on a job well done!

As always, thank you so much for your support of the School District of Black River Falls!  If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me!  Let’s show our Tiger Pride in all that we do!
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