In the school counseling field, 2016 has been a remarkable year for Johnson State College grad Rebecca Lallier, class of 1994. First she was named Vermont’s School Counselor of the Year. Then the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) chose her as a finalist for the 2017 National School Counselor of the Year award. And Hartford’s Dothan Brook School, where Rebecca is a counselor for students through grade 5, received the ASCA’s “RAMP School of Distinction Award” for the counseling program that she built. (The acronym stands for “Recognized ASCA Model Program.”)
Impressive achievements for anyone, maybe even more so because Rebecca enrolled as an adult in JSC’s off-campus degree program without any intention to become a school counselor. She majored in liberal studies with concentrations in psychology and history. But she began forging her career path soon after she enrolled, inspired by an adolescent development class she took her first semester that she raves about even now.
“The way the professor structured that class was incredible, with his connection of theory and practice and what actually happens during adolescent development, and the connections he allowed for applying that to your own experience,” Rebecca recalls. “He was so skilled and open. He just modeled what a counselor is: encouraging, supporting and creating the environment for growth.”
That was the first of many JSC classes that Rebecca cites as memorable and inspiring. The high-quality instruction she received at JSC sparked her passion for her profession and influences her work now. JSC’s off-campus degree program “opened this career possibility for me that would not have opened otherwise,” says Rebecca, of Hartford, who was working part time and raising her children while in the program. “It’s now my life’s work.”
Her life’s work has brought many accolades.
Dothan Brook School, an elementary school where Rebecca has been a counselor since ’96, is one of just five PreK-12 schools in the country to achieve the RAMP School of Distinction honor. Her comprehensive program there includes academic, social/emotional and career counseling.
The most rewarding aspects for her are “seeing kids learn that they have the skills and ability to help themselves,” she says, “and giving colleagues the skills to be able to work with a student who has some behavioral challenges or is academically disengaged.”
While Rebecca went on to earn her M.Ed. degree, she says her undergraduate experience at JSC gave her several tools that helped her succeed.
For example, after completing an independent study on death and dying did while a student at JSC, she trained to become a hospice volunteer and later worked at a hospice while in graduate school. She also developed a curriculum for students and school counselors to use for grief groups.
Rebecca insists that the instruction she received in her JSC courses was “the best I’ve had. It allowed me to construct my own knowledge, make the connections to my own life and experience, be inspired and do some personal growth.”
Since then she’s helped many students with their own personal growth.
Being nominated by her principal and chosen as Vermont’s School Counselor of the Year came as a total surprise, she says.
Another surprise was a schoolwide assembly in March, when Vermont Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe presented her with the award. “It was one of the nicest experiences of my life, like my wedding day and the days my kids were born. There was all of this love,” she recalls. Rebecca will be in Alexandria, Virginia, Oct. 9-10 for the finalist interviews for the ASCA School Counselor of the Year award. “It’s a huge honor because there are so many people doing such incredible work,” she notes. “I do what I do because I love it, and I get a lot of reinforcement along the way,” Rebecca says. “I set out to be really good… It’s something I’m passionate about.”