Interview with Vanessa Green Allen, School Counselor and Author
Vanessa Green Allen has been a school counselor since 2004. Prior to her counseling career, she worked for 13 years as a second-grade teacher. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and a Master of Education in Counseling and is a National Board Certified Teacher in School Counseling. Vanessa is also a published author of two books for kids on dealing with bullying and handling feelings.
1. Prior to becoming a school counselor, you spent more than a decade as a second-grade teacher. What prompted this shift in your career?
When I was in the classroom, I always enjoyed when the school counselor came to visit my students. I liked the idea of being the person who could focus on the emotional well-being of children and encourage good character. I was also drawn to students who were having difficulties and trying to find ways to help them so they could do their best in school. I thought it would be pretty cool to be able to make that my primary focus. I’ve wanted to be a teacher since elementary school, so being able to continue to “teach” was important to me also. In school counseling, I’m still able to teach students regularly, but I’m also able to work closely with students needing extra support whether it’s socially, emotionally or academically.
2. You’ve written two books – The No More Bullying Book for Kids and Me and My Feelings: A Kids’ Guide to Understanding and Expressing Themselves. What inspired you to begin writing?
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I always thought I would write a book. I wasn’t sure what it would be about or when. I started blogging in 2012 and began to write regular posts to share ideas with other school counselors. It was my blog that opened up the opportunity for me to write my first book, The No More Bullying Book for Kids. One day in December 2017, I was contacted by the publisher who discovered my blog. My first book was officially released in June of 2018. My most recent book, Me and My Feelings, released officially on October 1, 2019, by the same publisher.
3. You’ve shared that you love all things Disney. Do you find this passion useful in working with kids, and how so?
I can’t say that I use my Disney passion in my work with kids. I do share pictures of me in my “ears” with the castle in the background and I’ll dress in a Minnie Mouse theme for special dress-up days like pajama day or silly hat/crazy socks day. That’s really about it though.
4. What would you advise prospective students to look for when choosing a counseling degree program?
I believe it’s important to make sure the program you choose is accredited to ensure you are getting a quality education. Of course, having options for online learning has become more and more important throughout the years since I got my master’s. I believe most schools are offering on-campus and online options unless the college is strictly an online model. Having hosted several school counseling interns, I’ve learned that internships and practicum are done in a variety of ways. I think it’s important to have a full-time internship where you actually spend quality time in your school setting learning the ins and outs of the profession under the leadership of your site supervisor. I’ve had interns whose internships were for the entire school year, and I’ve had some who only came two or three days a week for a semester. I also like the idea of spending part of the internship in an elementary setting and the other part in a middle or high school setting. This allows you to really get an idea of where you fit best.
5. Are there professional development opportunities you would recommend to early-career counselors?
I recommend counselors attend their annual state conferences and the annual ASCA National Conferences. I wish someone had encouraged me to do this early on. Conferences are wonderful learning opportunities and a great time for networking. I always leave conferences feeling excited about my profession and geared up to try something new in my school counseling program.
6. What is the proudest moment of your professional career?
This is hard to choose. I was very proud in 2009 when I first became a National Board Certified Teacher in the area of School Counseling. For anyone who has achieved this honor, you know it takes a lot of work and time. I was so nervous going into the process, knowing that many have had to make multiple attempts to certify. I was fortunate to certify on my first attempt. Additionally, becoming an author for the first time in 2018 was surreal for me and a very proud time in my career.
Our thanks to Vanessa for sharing her time and insights with us. To find out more about her books, or the resources she recommends to counselors, visit her blog, Savvy School Counselor.