They’re striving for students to succeed

New WHS guidance counselors help to build upon 'solid foundation'

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Christina Mackey and Owen Sanford are both new to the counseling department at Washougal High School. Mackey works with seniors and sophomores, and Sanford works with freshmen and juniors.

Christina Mackey and Owen Sanford can sum up their first two months on the job in just a few words: A steep learning curve.

That’s because both are brand new to Washougal High School’s counseling department. Mackey, 33, works with seniors and sophomores, and Sanford, 31, with freshman and juniors.

They both recently received their masters’ degrees in counselor education, Mackey from Portland State University and Sanford from Heritage University.

Both attended northwest schools for undergraduate work. Mackey graduated from Eastern Oregon University in 2001, and Sanford graduated from Central Washington University in 2003.

They have replaced counselors Lemecia Lindsey and Deanna Hogan. Hogan accepted a job with the Vancouver School District and Lindsey went into private practice.

Mackey and Sanford both say it has been a steep learning curve.

“We’re in a pretty unique position,” Mackey said. “There are only two counselors here, and we’re both brand new. We’re both learning and figuring out the culture of the school.”

Sanford agrees.

“The staff has been very encouraging and understanding,” he said. “I think it’s important for everyone to realize that we’re coming into a new place with new people and lots to learn.”

Both have spent a majority of their time making class schedule changes, balancing student numbers in classrooms and helping students transferring into WHS figure out what classes they need to take.

“For me this year, it’s all about learning,” Mackey said. “I’ll be doing everything from brainstorming with teachers about student behavior to assisting students who need credit recovery.”

Sanford has already had a few experiences talking with teachers about strategies for classroom management.

“I’ve also had the chance to work a little with parents and students to explore different strategies to motivate students and figure out how to help get them to where they want to be,” he said. “I also want to help students understand the credit system, which will help them take ownership.”

Mackey, who comes with a background in college admissions, wants to help students be successful in high school so that they are prepared for undergraduate work.

“High school is a big responsibility and it’s theirs,” she said. “I want to empower them to be successful and give them the tools to do that. It’s not just about academics here. We see the students as a full person, academically, personally and socially.”

Both have enjoyed meeting fellow counselors at the middle and elementary school levels during Professional Learning Community days. These are times when students are dismissed early and teachers, counselors and administrators from all levels join with their peers to brainstorm different ideas from their own experiences.

“They’ve been awesome,” Mackey said. “We have great support.”