Elementary School Counselor of the Year
Nancy Ferguson takes a long time describing her job as counselor at Templeton Elementary School in Tigard because it’s so varied.
“No two days are the same,” she said, but that didn’t stop the Oregon School Counselor Association from naming her one of two Elementary School Counselors of the Year for 2004-05.
Templeton principal Pat Thomason made the announcement at a school assembly, which took Ferguson completely by surprise.
“I thought the assembly was for the jog-a-thon,” Ferguson said. “When I heard, I went weak in the knees. The kids and staff don’t see me cry very often, but I cried tears of joy.”
Ferguson has taken a slightly unconventional route to becoming counselor of the year. She grew up in Bend, earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Western Oregon, and spent 10 years as a youth advocate in Yamhill County.
Then she was hired part time for the Tigard-Tualatin School District’s First Step program at Templeton. Pam Hallvik, who was principal at the time, interviewed her for the job of school counselor, even though Ferguson didn’t have a master’s degree.
She got the job and enrolled in the Lewis & Clark fast-track program to complete her master’s degree in 18 months.
“I worked full time and went to school full time,” Ferguson said. “I don’t know how I survived. But doors opened for me at the right time.”
Now only in her fifth year at Templeton, Ferguson has won a statewide award for her innovative work with students.
She dismisses the myth that counselors only deal with at-risk kids.
“There are 530 students here, and I hope I know every kid in this school,” Ferguson said. “Counselors are not just for troubled kids. All kids need extra adults in their life and a positive influence. Hopefully, they see me as someone to help problem-solve with them.”
Ferguson works with kids in small-group activities, and her toy-and-book-filled office in a new addition at Templeton is testimony to the many facets of her job.
“Kids may be dealing with issues of self-control, self-awareness, or compulsive behavior,” Ferguson said. “Kids struggle with changing family situations such as divorce or a new sibling. And there are friendship issues. Kids have so many factors in their lives.”
Ferguson also has a special friend who helps her with the kids every day at school–her 1½-year-old black lab/Weimaraner named Asia.
“I approached our principal two years ago about a dog,” she said. “I researched it and got her in Boring when she was 11 weeks old. I would never have thought that she would have such a good effect on the kids.”
Templeton’s principal nominated Ferguson for the elementary school counselor award and collected a slew of letters recommending her. “She’s incredible,” said Thomason. “She meets the needs of so many people–the kids, the staff, the parents. And I love the dog–she has helped so many kids. They’re a great team.”
Adapted from the Tigard Times, March 31, 2005; reprinted with permission.