RAYMOND – Tasha Osten was shocked when she learned she was a finalist for the Middle School Counselor of the Year award from the Nebraska School Counselor Association.
“I said, ‘Are you sure you have the right person?’” she recalled.
On the other hand, Dr. Derrick Joel, superintendent of Raymond Central Public Schools, was not shocked.
“Our students and staff are fortunate to have Ms. Osten in our building as she is always willing to listen and brainstorm action solutions to issues brought her way,” said Joel.
Osten is school counselor for the junior and senior high school at Raymond Central, where she strives to provide students with information, support, and resources to meet their academic and social emotional needs every day, according to Joel.
“Ms. Osten approaches each day with a positive attitude and models expected behaviors for both students and staff,” he said. “What I appreciate most about Ms. Osten and her work as our school counselor is that she approaches each student with a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude and makes sure every student has a positive adult role model in the building.”
Each school counselor of the year was selected for their exemplary implementation of a comprehensive school counselor program that supports all students in their respective buildings in the areas of academic achievement, career readiness, and social emotional learning, according to the NSCA.
Osten had to fill out an extensive application once she was named a finalist. She included information about some of the programs she has worked on at Raymond Central, including behavior data tracking, the development of a holistic health fair and implementing an intervention advisory committee.
Osten said the behavior data tracking is done in most school districts, but she took the information that was gathered and used it to help determine why students were being sent to the principal’s office for bad behavior.
She also put herself in the classroom more often to observe behavior. Before, she would only visit classrooms once or twice a month. Now she is in front of each grade level every other week, she said.
The holistic health fair was set up in the spring for students in grades 6 to 8, where they learned about emotional health, mental health, physical health, nutrition, healthy driving habits and substance abuse.
It was a way to bring students more information other than what is taught in the classroom.
“We looked at what do our kids need and what can we get them,” Osten said.
The intervention advisory committee was spearheaded by Osten and Joel to figure out how to raise grades and keep students off ineligibility lists.
Students are not allowed to participate in extracurricular activities if they are failing.
Osten said at Raymond Central and at other schools where she taught or worked as a counselor, the list of failing students was too long.
“I felt like our ineligibility lists were incredibly long for no reasons,” she said.
Sometimes it can be as simple as the student does not turn in their work, Osten said.
When they looked at this and other reasons, and then provided that information to teachers, the list began to decrease.
“I think it gives us and our teachers a better idea of which students struggle learning the concepts,” she said.
Osten originally planned to be a social studies teacher while attending Concordia University in Seward, where she earned an education degree. After teaching the subject for one year, she switched careers and began working at a treatment group home as a school liaison for a few years.
In her next job, she traveled throughout Nebraska and to other states as a college admissions representative for Concordia University.
She spent a lot of time with school counselors during that time and became interested in the position, so she started taking graduate classes in counseling.
“I was hooked,” she said.
Her first job as a school counselor was at Lincoln Christian Schools in Lincoln. She also taught history her first year there.
She became Raymond Central’s school counselor for grades 6 to 12 in 2017.
She is the first School Counselor of the Year recipient from Raymond Central.
Osten received the award during the NSCA’s annual awards luncheon on Nov. 7 at the Annual School Counselor Academy.
Megan McDougal of Bell Elementary School in the Papillion-LaVista Community School District was named Elementary School Counselor of the Year and Loni Watson of Chadron High School was named High School Counselor of the Year during the luncheon.
Osten and the other two award winners will be honored at a formal dinner in February at which time one will be announced as the overall Nebraska School Counselor of the Year and will represent Nebraska in the national school counselor of the year competition conducted by the American School Counselor Association.