Ask an expert - Lisa Hikes, guidance counselor


Last updated 2/5/2020 at 4:51pm | View PDF

Jim Slonoff

Hinsdale Central's Lisa Hikes has worked with thousands of Red Devil students over her nearly two decades as guidance counselor. She praised the dedication of her department colleagues, teachers and administrators to creating a environment in which all students can thrive.

What's it like being a school counselor?

Lisa Hikes works in the "heart" of Hinsdale Central High School.

That's how her former boss described the counseling department, anyway, where Hikes and her colleagues address student needs ranging from lunchroom anxiety to college admissions. She's been walking alongside Red Devils for 19 years, helping to shape their evolution from freshman to senior.

"We're really the only people in the building that will have students for four years," she said. "I'm just in awe of what they become."

This week is National School Counseling Week, a nod to the unique role guidance counselors play in the education system. In addition to meeting with students, they work with teachers, administrators and families.

"We really are operating from all dimensions with all different groups of people and keeping it all going," she said. "That makes is both incredibly rewarding, but also can make days very hectic, because there's always a lot going on."

The department just concluded the registration season, its most intensive, with current Devils and eighth-graders on the rise crafting their schedules for the 2020-21 school year.

"We're working with the class of 2024," Hikes said. "We're always working in the future."

Fall's focus is helping seniors with their college applications while easing freshmen through their high school acclimation. Conversations take place with sophomores and juniors in late fall around career exploration and potential college majors, respectively.

"On top of all of those things, we're doing daily triage on things that are not necessarily going right," Hikes said, citing social-emotional-related matters as an example.

The number of colleges Hikes had visited is somewhere around 350, she estimated, and she praised the district for equipping her own development.

"The expectations of families and administration and colleagues is high here, and that pushes you to take advantage of opportunities so that you do travel and go to professional development conferences."

Gratification comes in seeing the transformation when a student's motivation is unlocked.

"I have seen kids go from struggling to figure it out to straight A's and honors and AP classes."

While counselors can encourage, only the student can flip that switch, as she learned from one exchange with one who finally blossomed his senior year.

"I asked him, 'What could I have done?' And he said, 'You couldn't have done anything. It was all me,' " she related. "They learn a lot about themselves and how to navigate things."

Compassion, patience and organization skills are necessary attributes for a guidance counselor, Hikes commented. Oh, and a sense of humor.

"Levity is a good thing," Hikes said with a smile.

From Christmas cards to wedding invitations, many students and families keep in touch well past their Central days.

"The reward comes when they're out for a long time and you still hear from them," she said. "Sometimes you just don't know the impact you make on people."

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 630-323-4422, ext 103


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