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COUNSELOR BRATINA: ‘I DO THIS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE’

 Suzanne Bratina of Corwin International Magnet SchoolAs we continue to celebrate National School Counseling Week, we visit with Suzanne Bratina of Corwin International Magnet School, who left the business world to pursue a passion for bettering the lives of children.

“School Counseling is not my first career,” Counselor Bratina began. “I spent time in banking then office management before getting a job in student records. I worked in this position part time after my youngest son was born. 

“This was a great job. Spending time with student records made me realize that I had more to offer students and could hopefully make a difference.”

When deciding on a career path, Counselor Bratina knew that she wanted to dedicate her time and energy for the benefit of others. And while it wasn’t her first career choice, a love for school counseling began while she was in high school.

“The school counselor I had in high school was helpful to me. She was also the one who wrote the letter of recommendation for me to get into the Master’s in counseling program at Adams State University. This was a great honor for me,” Counselor Bratina said.

For those who may not understand the scope of school counseling, Counselor Bratina offers insight.

“According to the American School Counselor Association, school counselors deliver programs that have an impact on student growth in three domain areas: academic development, career development and social/emotional development,” she explained. “School counselors are certified/licensed educators who improve student success for all students by implementing a comprehensive school counseling program. 

“School counselors work to maximize student success, promoting access and equity for all students. As vital members of the school leadership team, school counselors create a school culture of success for all.”

Understandably, the duties of a school counselor require a tremendous depth of versatility. 

“We work with all students by academic and future planning; goal setting, and creating and providing classroom lessons,” Counselor Bratina said. “Also, providing short-term counseling support and referrals for long-term counseling; collaborating/consulting with teachers, administrators, families and community resources; advocating for all students; improving social skills and student relationships; and identifying where student supports are needed,” Counselor Bratina explained.

The work is filled with responsibility and is often taxing.

“I do this work to make a difference, change a life, and offer students an adult who will listen without judgment and offer encouragement and hope,” Counselor Bratina said. “I am grateful to do a job that many tell me they could never do. 

“I can offer a caring ear to parents when they do not know how to help their student. I can offer support to teachers when they have trouble understanding their students. I help build a bridge between students and parents, students and teachers, and parents and teachers. 

“I offer connections between students and the appropriate support for success, families to outside resources, students to future options and students to hope. I can provide peace in a stressful situation.”

Counselor Bratina said there are numerous rewards of the position.

“It’s rewarding to connect students with their parents and opening a new line of communication so they can work to solve their problems,” she explained. “Also, students show me their appreciation by presenting me with a hand-drawn picture or a note telling me I am the best teacher, then giving it to me at the moment I needed it most.”

By building relationships with students, Counselor Bratina enjoys a wealth of returns.

“They tell me I am the only one they will speak with because they trust me. The hugs, the candy bars and Jolly Ranchers, the sand, crayons and coloring books, the walks, the tears and tissue, fidgets, story books and the love,” she said.

With a huge heart for all children, Counselor Bratina said “not being able to solve all of the problems that students are facing, not being able to encourage everyone to show kindness at all time, not being able to put an end to bullying behaviors” are among the challenges of the position.

Through the years, Counselor Bratina has made an indelible impact on too many students to single out. 

“One time at the Academic Excellence awards ceremony at the Fairgrounds, a parent came up to me and thanked me for sharing the ‘Love and Logic’ techniques with their family. The parent continued to share how the information made a huge positive impact on their family relationships. 

“She was very appreciative and grateful for what I was able to do for them. We do not do this work for the recognition, but I appreciated this.”

On another occasion, Counselor Bratina was attempting to teach students about the “Power of Yet,” from the famous “Sesame Street” song, with little success.

“This was at the end of the day and the students did not want to listen. I shared my struggles with teaching and how I did not always feel competent,” Counselor Bratina said. “After class, a student presented me with a hand drawing of the words ‘Not Yet,’ reminding me of the content of my own lesson. 

“This hangs in my office today. I use it as a reminder to myself and others who need the encouragement.”

Through the years, students have offered a deep pool of knowledge.

“I have learned a great deal from my students and also have been greatly encouraged by them. I appreciate their kindness and thoughtfulness that always comes when I need it most,” she said.

“I have kept every note: many hang in my office today.”