Brightening every student’s day, future mission of Showell’s honored school counselor

SELBYVILLE – Like snowflakes, no two schooldays for Cheryl Carey are ever alike.

And like sunshine, her daily mission as school counselor is to brighten the day and future for all 300-plus students at Phillip Showell Elementary School.

“I try to break down barriers for my kids so that they can have the best chance of growing academically, socially and emotionally every single day,” said Ms. Carey. “One of my goals is to work with parents, work with staff and work with students so that every child that walks through my doorway feels like they have an equal opportunity to get the best education.”

From morning bus duty, breakfast and homework club to lunch and friendship time at mid-day to consultations with students or parents after the dismissal bell rings, Ms. Carey’s day is often one of problem solving, heartache, celebration and above all passion.

30 Cheryl Carey cert of recognition

Phillip Showell Elementary School counselor Cheryl Carey, who recently was named the Delaware School Counselor Association’s 2016 Delaware Elementary School Counselor, receives a certificate of recognition from Indian River School District school board president Jim Hudson and IRSD Superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting at the March 21 board of education meeting.

“I love what I do. There are days that are painfully challenging because of the heartache and emotion that is involved. But I love what I do and have a passion for my children and their families,” said Ms. Carey. “There is never a typical day. Of course you always have your day planned. But as I like to say: ‘Life happens.’ No two days are ever the same.”

This concerted effort must obviously be working at Phillip Showell Elementary where Ms. Carey wears many other hats other than her official capacity as school counselor.

In February, she was selected 2016-17 Delaware Elementary School Counselor of the Year by the Delaware School Counselor Association. The DSCA also chose statewide honorees at the middle school and high school level.

From that trio Ms. Carey in early March was chosen to represent the First State at the national level.

Packaged information on the nuts and bolts of the counseling program at Phillip Showell will be submitted to the American School Counselors Association. National semifinalists will be announced this fall. A national celebration is slated for January 2017.

“My school counseling program is successful because of my staff and a very supportive administration. We are a team. It’s is absolutely ‘we’ not ‘me,’” she said.

Ms. Carey is a native of suburban Philadelphia. She has been in education for 29 years, including 24 in the Indian River School District. She taught physical education four years at Georgetown Elementary and is in her 20th year as school counselor. She taught in Pennsylvania and New Jersey prior to employment with the Indian River district.

Ms. Carey resides in Fenwick Island. Combined she and her husband have five children and four grandkids.

Her students are extended family.

“I go to graduation every year. I say, ‘You are my kid; you are always my kid,’” Ms. Carey said. “As a new counselor it was easy my first year. I didn’t really know my families and didn’t know my kids. And now, kids that were students here at Phillip Showell 20 years ago I now have their children here. I have great connections with the families. I know all of my kids. I know all of the parents. I’ve had their brothers, sisters or their parents. We are family in within a family.”

Her mission to provide kids with the best learning environment possible extends beyond school walls.

“I work with a lot outside agencies, getting support for children and their families.

There are a lot of things that kids come to school with that they shouldn’t have to come to school with. But we try to break down those barriers. If the parents need resources or children need resources, then we try to put those in arm’s length for them,” said Ms. Carey.

She also serves on the mission at her church.

“I have a connection with two or three other churches in Bethany or Selbyville that support us,” said Ms. Carey. “I can’t fix a lot of things, but if kids need new coats I can get them that. If they need new sneakers I know where to go.”

“When I started 20 years ago as a school counselor we were about 40 percent free and reduced lunch. Now we are just under 80 percent,” she added. “Our world has changed. But my kids haven’t. I still want the same things for these kids’ dreams and goals and their future.”

Ms. Carey also serves as Showell Elementary’ s mentoring coordinator. The program has great community support.

“We have 65 to 70 community people that come weekly to work with one or two or three children as a mentor. That is a real support,” Ms. Carey said.

Older students can also have roles.

“I run a Peer Buddy program where I train my fifth graders to be a mentor for a first grader. And once a week they give up recess for a half hour. We try instill the value of giving to somebody else. Certainly we know when we give and we help others we feel better about who we are,” Ms. Carey said.

Breakfast is more than nutrition.

“I have kids that get off the bus first thing in the morning, go get their breakfast and they come with me and a couple of support staff teachers. We help them get prepared and ready to greet the day before it has even started,” said Ms. Carey. “They just need that little extra support.”

Intervention spans the spectrum, large group, small group or individual.

“I try not to be reactive but there are times that you need to be reactive, like putting out little fires or little challenges within students,” she said.

Some days might include a Lunch Bunch with kids coupled with friendship time.

“You name it, I do it,” said Ms. Carey. “I try to create or help kids come up with dreams or goals and for them to understand that education is how to reach those dreams and how to get to those goals. My goal is getting my kids to know more than what they already know.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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