Hawai‘i School Counselors Care

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Silvia Koch is a passionate lifelong school counselor. She has been a counselor at Kipapa Elementary for 27 years and is currently the President of the Hawaii School Counselor Association.

In celebration of National School Counseling Week, counselor Silvia Koch shares the joys and challenges of the profession, as well as what the community can do to support those who uplift Hawai‘i’s children.

When students arrive to school, many are carrying burdens from home life. These issues range from dealing with divorce, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, abuse, and neglect. Parents worry about rising health care costs and how to send their children to college. This makes the job of school counselors essential in the success of our students.

Often times though, there is uncertainty from community members, administrators and parents about the role school counselors play in education. This is not only a local issue, but also one that is playing out nationally as well – a sort of professional identity crisis. It is crucial to keep in mind that schools can have the most rigorous curriculum, but if the student is not coming to school or coming to school with their basic needs not being met, they will not achieve to their highest potential.


School counselors take an active and important role in helping students cope with difficult situations, and teach them strategies to deal with the conflicts that confront them. Counselors work behind the scenes as they support their school faculty and teach students character education, violence prevention, career planning and much more.

During the 2016-2017 school year, Hawai‘i had 611 counselors in public schools across the state, serving approximately 179,000 public school students. School counselors are educators with a mental health perspective who provide services through a counseling program that is comprehensive in scope, preventative in design, and developmental in nature. Counseling services may be provided through the guidance program, individually, or in small groups and may focus on family issues and concerns.

It is essential for us to understand and recognize the hard work of our school counselors and the critical role they play in student success.


The AmericanSchool Counselor Association (ASCA) is the professional organization that represents school counselors. ASCA believes in “one vision and one voice” and works to ensure that it meets the needs of all school counselors, regardless of setting or experience level.

The Association has created the ASCA National Model, which is a framework for a comprehensive, data-driven school-counseling program. This model helps to answer the question, “how are students different as a result of what school counselors do?” Hawaii boasts several schools and programs that have received national recognition as being ASCA model schools including Nānāikapono Elementary, Nānākuli Elementary, Nānākuli High and Intermediate, and Waianae Intermediate. This type of recognition shows that Hawai‘i continues to move in the right direction when it comes to supporting our school counselors.

We must continue to work together to uplift those who enrich our students and ensure that they are ready to learn. The community can support school counselors by valuing their role in the school, and their efforts to assist all students to be academically successful. In turn, our students will gain valuable social emotional skills from these counselors that will serve as the foundation for their future.

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