School Counseling at WBMS

The Basics: Understanding the Whole Child

"School Counselor", if you please...

WBMS School Counseling Mission

The mission of WBMS Counseling Program is to assist each student in increasing competence in the areas of academic, career, and personal/social development. All students will complete WBMS with a commitment to living responsibly and respectfully, learning effectively for their individual style, working toward a career path, and beginning the journey of defining their own identity.

This was developed by our WBMS Advisory Council. The advisory council oversees the school counseling program, makes recommendations on how to best serve our school, and supports the school counselor.

Advisory Council Members:

  • April Gary
  • Bernard "Top" Johnson
  • Shane Peek
  • Kathy Shillaber
  • Christy Jinks
  • Pebbles Fields
  • led by Mr. Hunt, Dr. Bergin (counselor educator consultant), and myself

We follow the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) model.

How I help streghten academic achievement School Counseling Is For Everyone!

  1. I come to your classes to do classroom counseling lessons.
  2. I coordinate and host small groups for students with a common struggle, and who need extra support.
  3. I work with students individually in brief counseling sessions related to problems impeding school success. I am not a long-term therapist, however.
  4. I am available for consultation. Need ideas or resources? Just ask!
  5. I work with students proactively on individual student planning (Individual Graduation Plans for all 8th graders).

Comprehensive School Counseling


These American School Counselor Association (ASCA) standards came out of last year's end-of-year needs assessment. This is what we need to work on:


  • Demonstrate how effort and persistence positively affect learning
  • Use knowledge of learning styles to positively influence school performance
  • Understand how school success and academic achievement enhance future career and vocational opportunities


  • Understand the importance of responsibility, dependability,punctuality, integrity and effort in the workplace

  • Identify personal skills, interests and abilities and relate them to current career choice

  • Learn how to use conflict management skills with peers and adults


  • Understand the need for self-control and how to practice it

  • Demonstrate when, where and how to seek help for solving problems and making decisions

  • Learn about the relationship between rules, laws, safety and the protection of rights of the individual


(as determined by school-wide needs assessment and Advisory Council)

1. Academic Focused: In conjunction with our school’s Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) goal, our students will increase their Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS) scores such that 100% of students will move a minimum of one year’s growth from Spring to Spring testing. The school counselor will aid in this progress by teaching all students test-taking skills, hosting small groups on test anxiety and study skills, and through mentoring individuals who are behind and worried about succeeding by teaching skills, such as goal setting. This will be measured by the students’ unofficial confidence assessments done by the school counselor in classroom and group lessons, and then in the summer, when PASS results are returned to the school.

2. Career Focused: By the end of each school year, all students promoted from 8th grade will have an Individual Graduation Plan, which highlights a general career goal and includes a plan of action for all courses to take in high school in preparation for college or other future opportunities. These classes will align with the students’ ready-made career action survey, which will be accomplished through a series of classroom counseling lessons throughout all grade levels in middle school.

3. Personal/Social Focused: Cohesion will be built within the school’s Gentleman’s Club, Ladies Club, and Girls’ Circle, which teach soft skills, communication, manners, and service to young men and women in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. A series of lessons on respect, responsibility, and life-skills will be conducted by the club leaders with assistance from the school counselor to enhance effectiveness. This will be measured by a reduction in group member behavior referrals by more than half.

Small Group Counseling

Groups happening this fall:
  • Happiness Project- social skills/positivity (5th grade SIT boys and 5th grade SIT girls)
  • Mastering Test Anxiety (students who have drive, but lack confidence) taking names
  • Grief Groups (led by Caroline Hospice) taking names
  • Girls' Circle and MOST (6th grade girls, 7th/8th grade girls, 7th/8th grade boys, led by Hope Haven) taking names
  • periodic lunch bunches

Individual Counseling

Requests for brief counseling:
  • Students put a note in my locked mailbox
  • Students ask you to contact me
  • Please email or call me, or send a student to put a request in my locked mailbox

The following counseling services are provided for students at Whale Branch Middle School.

* means also possibly referred out to a community counseling agency


Conflict resolution/mediation

Body image




Family alcohol/drug abuse*

Suicidal thoughts*



Absenteeism & Tardiness (and/or social worker)

Goal setting

Study skills/organization


Career possibilities


Individual Graduation Plans

School Supplies

Walgreens of Wilmington Island was gracious enough to donate some school supplies!

Shhhh...don't advertise "MRS. BURKHART HAS NOTEBOOKS, EVERYONE!!" but do let students know who need an extra binder, notebook, pencil, pen, etc, to come see me. Also, supplies are "for sale" in the Orca Store.

If you ever need anything from Barnett's Educational Supply in Savannah, check out their website and let me know!

Wanted: Prizes and Goodies for Academic and Behavioral Awards

When you're out in the community at local businesses, please talk positively about our school and ask for donations. Hint: our kids love food!

College Swag Wanted!

Let's make a college going culture!

  • College in-class project for credit. Have students research your college or their favorite college, and answer questions about enrollment, majors offered, etc. Build a presentation, write a paper, make a poster. Connect it to your standards!
  • College Colors/College T-Shirt Days
  • Hang your pennant with pride! You could even decorate your door, or have students help you make your own college swag to hang in your classrooms, and the halls.

If you have the time, please contact your school's admissions office to see if you can score a poster and/or any collegiate giveaways for our students. Thanks in advance!

Career Cafe

An opportunity for students in all grades to meet individuals from the community and learn about their careers. Speakers will speak to students for about 20 minutes each session including time for questions and answer.

Speakers share their career journey with students

  • how they became interested in their current field
  • education/training they needed
  • a typical day at their job

Speakers are encouraged to bring props, actual items they use in their job, and/or giveaways with their company’s logo.

Please let me know if you know anyone who would be interested in participating.

Questions for staff:
  1. Would lunch be the best time for Career Cafe? Keep in mind, it's for a small group at a time (less than 30 students)?
  2. Where to host?

Final thoughts

"Empathy does not call us to live the same lives as our students, but to see them for who they are exactly where they are at."

- Chef Jeff Henderson at the American School Counselor Association Conference, June 30, 2013, Philadelphia, PA

We need to change our thinking about at-risk youth to "at-promise" youth.

Typically, we use "at-risk" to define students who may not be where they are "supposed" to be.

It is a very simple, but very intentional and powerful change of language that is uplifting rather than demeaning to students.

What would you rather hear?

You are in danger of failing your class.


You have an opportunity to pass this class if you work hard.