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11-19-15 — Wightman Represents State in National Counselor Award Program

Nov. 19, 2015 ~ Cristi Wightman, counselor at Indian Creek Elementary School for the past nine years, is the Kansas representative for the 2016 School Counselor of the Year program of the American School Counselor Association.

Last fall, Wightman was named Kansas School Counselor of the Year by the Kansas School Counselor Association, which ensured she would be the state's representative for the national award program. The School Counselor of the Year program honors the professionals who devote their careers to serving as advocates for the nation's students, helping them achieve success in school and in life.

The state representatives will travel to Washington, D.C., in January to be honored in a ceremony at the White House and recognized at a black‐tie gala at historic Union Station.

"Cristi continuously works to support not only our students and their families, but our staff as well," Principal Liz Harrison said. "We are so lucky to have Cristi at Indian Creek!"

Harrison noted that Wightman assists homeless families, coordinates Harvester's BackSnacks for students, helps find school supplies, and ensures families have access to meals and gifts during the holidays.

"Cristi ensures our school counseling program is not only effective but also innovative in that she uses small groups, technology, cooperative learning, and authentic writing experiences to enhance her lessons," Harrison said.

Wightman is also active on the building crisis team and collaboration team.

"I am a small part of an incredible staff at Indian Creek," Wightman said. "We all work together as a team to meet the needs of our students and find ways to make our students' lives better. We strive to support each other through the celebrations and the challenging times.

"In addition, Olathe has an amazing group of school counselors and I know that part of my success comes from working with and learning from them. I feel very lucky to be part of such an amazing team of people in the Olathe School District!"

What motivated you to become a school counselor?

I have been absolutely fascinated with behavioral science my whole life. I always try to figure out the reasons behind why people behave the way they do, what motivates them, what makes them happy, what challenges them, what helps them change. I chose to become an elementary school counselor because I've always believed that the power of love, encouragement, and education can transform lives. I also think it's very important to teach children how to protect and stand up for themselves.

How would you describe a typical school day for you as counselor at Indian Creek Elementary?

In the mornings, I greet the students as they come in. I do morning announcements and then get started with instruction. I love to teach lessons through music and movement activities. I strive to make the lessons meaningful, active and fun. I also meet with students, have lunch groups, plan lessons, complete paperwork, manage school programs, talk with parents and staff, offer lots of hugs and TLC, and offer support in any way I can.

What is the greatest reward of being a school counselor?

One of the best rewards of being a school counselor is having students share stories with me about remembering what we practiced and telling me they were able to apply the skill and it helped them feel successful and proud. That's when you know they've really integrated the concept and can apply it in real-life situations, the ultimate goal of our counseling program. Another rewarding part is helping to spark curiosity, create connections and foster supportive relationships; these really do make a difference in helping children learn and grow.

How did you learn about this recognition and what were your first thoughts about it?

I learned about the recognition through an email from the American School Counselor Association. Coincidentally, I was on the phone with my husband at the time. My husband was very excited for me, but it took me a little while to process the idea of being honored at the White House. I am thrilled to be able to represent the Olathe School District and counseling program on a national level!