When I first heard that my husband’s job transfer would move me from my little town in Massachusetts to living 20 miles outside a major army base, I thought nothing of it. When I took a part-time school counseling job at a small magnet school, again, I thought nothing of how many military families I would be working with.
I was in for a total surprise! I have had the privilege of meeting families who have lived all over the world. Their stories led to situations and questions that I was not prepared to deal with. For example, a third grader was upset because he just received the news that his father was getting deployed to South Korea in March. Another student is now living for the first time in the USA because their parents have been stationed all over the world.
I needed to learn more, so I attended free webinars from www.militarychild.org which gave a ton of information for professionals about transitions, military student needs, and offered parents support as well. I learned about the average amount of moves a military child will have in the 12 years of schooling and the rights that military children have through the MIC3 (Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission).
So what do you do when you want to learn how to apply these best practice? You go to the best. I made an appointment to spend the day with the school counselor located right on the Fort Jackson Army Base. Her name is Taqueena Quintana and she works with military students all day, every day.
Just going on base and seeing the community was amazing. There was a waterpark, bowling alley, Starbucks and much more. My visit took me specifically to one of the elementary schools. From the second I walked in, the school felt warm and inviting.
Taqueena took me through the challenges and insights when working with military families. She spoke about three levels that school counselors need to be aware of when working with military students:
Taqueena S. Quintana, MSEd, LPC, NCC, DCC, School Counselor with the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA)
Ms. Quintana is a professional school counselor and licensed professional counselor with 10+ years in education. Her extensive background includes serving diverse students groups such as students with disabilities, military-connected students, and underrepresented minority student populations. To contact Mrs. Quintana, please feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The military is a culture within a culture. Keep an open mind when working with military-connected students. In addition to cultural factors that include race, ethnicity, religious/spiritual orientation and other areas, the military is comprised of various branches and ranks. Included in this are active duty, reserve, and national guard components. Be sure to consider these factors when supporting military-connected students.”
“Educate your school community on supported military-connected students. As a school counselor, you are in a unique position to educate administrators, teachers, staff and even parents on the specific needs of military-connected students. This may include an in-service for teachers in supporting military-connected students within their classrooms, a presentation to school counselors in your district that highlight the ways in which counselors support military-connected students and their families through various transitional periods (e.g. relocation, deployment, reintegration) or a parent workshop that addresses social/emotional needs of military-connected students.”
“As change-agents, school counselors are leaders in the area of advocacy. In advocating for systemic change in addressing the needs of military-connected students, you have the opportunity to educate legislators, school board members, superintendents/chancellors and administrators about the importance of supporting this unique student population. Participating in local, state and national efforts that support military-connected students increases the effectiveness of the work that you do on a larger scale.”
April is Month of the Military Child (get your free toolkit here) and it is important to recognize those students who are military and let them know that you support their families. Through my research and meeting families, I now know that it is not just the active duty father or mother in the military but the active duty family.
A big thank you to Taqueena Quintana for sharing her time and expertise with me.
What is your experience working with military families?
I am a teacher turned school counselor for the past 10+ years. To sum me up – I am school counselor by day and a soccer, swim, basketball, ballet taxi driver by night. I am a hiking, shopping at Marshalls and game boarding kind of girl. I have 3 AWESOME kids and a great husband.