Todayâ€™s elementary school students have to deal with anxiety over test scores, parents divorcing and peer pressure, among others.
Itâ€™s sensitive information for a school counselor seeking to help them out. But Kim Dodgin at Pumpkin Center Elementary manages to gain their confidence.
â€œI always tell children that Iâ€™m the best secret-keeper in the school,â€ said Dodgin.
Dodginâ€™s hard work as a counselor is no secret. She has been named this yearâ€™s Lincoln County Schoolsâ€™ Counselor of the Year.
â€œShe is one of the best counselors that Iâ€™ve ever worked with,â€ said Sheila Finger, principal of Pumpkin Center Elementary.
â€œSheâ€™s very gentle with the kids. Sheâ€™s genuine and the kids pick up on that and relax.â€
Dodgin found out about her award through an email.
â€œI was surprised,â€ said Dodgin. â€œThereâ€™s an awful lot of counselors in this county.â€
Dodgin is the only counselor at the school, and she deals with issues from students of all kinds. Some have anger management problems. Others have low self esteem.
She works with students in small groups and individually. She also goes from class to class teaching kids to be kinder to one another.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of peer pressure, so a lot of my talks are about how to be a good friend, what to look for in a good friend,â€ said Dodgin.
â€œI let all the children know that they can choose their own friends. No one can tell them who their friends are.â€
Another major problem many elementary school aged children face is parents divorcing.
â€œItâ€™s tough if Dad moves out. Then they want to be around Dad,â€ said Dodgin.
Many divorced parents ask their children questions to get information about their ex-husband or wife.
â€œThe children are often caught in the middle,â€ said Dodgin.
Dodgin uses studentsâ€™ lunch time to have group counseling sessions. She calls all the students â€œlunch buddies.â€
The sessions help students learn theyâ€™re not alone in their problems, whether it be divorcing parents or grieving over a loved one.
Dodgin also meets with students who need attention one-on-one. Some take longer to open up about their problems than others, but Dodgin doesnâ€™t have too much trouble getting to the heart of the matter.
â€œTheyâ€™re all willing to talk,â€ said Dodgin. â€œThey like individual attention.â€
Dodgin herself faced a time in her life where she didnâ€™t feel she was paying enough attention to her own needs.
She had graduated college with a psychology degree, gotten married and had a son.
One day she decided she needed to go to graduate school.
â€œIâ€™ve done everything for everyone else,â€ she said. â€œThis is for me.â€
Dodgin has worked at Pumpkin Center Elementary since it opened five years ago.
Her son is now 17 and going to college soon himself. Sheâ€™s already started thinking about how much sheâ€™ll miss him.
â€œMy son just rolls his eyes at me,â€ said Dodgin.
Even after her son moves out, however, Dodgin will have a school full of students who need her.
â€œShe has a real keen sense of how to take to children,â€ said Finger. by Sarah Grano