January 2017 Counselors Newsletter

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EngageOK Counselors

January 2017


2017 Brings Great Things for Counselors

WOW! 2017 is off to an exciting start! As you know, the Oklahoma State Department of Education will be offering a FREE College & Career Readiness Assessment to all juniors whose districts choose to participate! Not only that, but each district gets to choose whether the ACT or SAT best meets the needs of their students. What an opportunity for our students! 

In more exciting news, a $2 million New Skills for Youth Grant was awarded to the State of Oklahoma. Many of you were instrumental in participating in work groups to help our state earn this wonderful award. This grant will allow for a focus on early college and career initiatives (see more information in the article in this newsletter).

The excitement in 2017 continues starting next month when we will offer 10 Crisis Team Trainings in different regions of the state. As of today, we have 906 people representing 180 districts registered to participate. We are partnering with Oklahoma School Security Institute (OSSI) to offer this FREE training on such an important topic. 

There are still spots available if you have not yet registered. Schools should register as a team - multiple people who will be an integral part of their Crisis Team. If your district already has a written crisis plan, you should bring that with you so that updates and notes can be made right on the plan throughout the training. If you do not yet have a written plan, do not worry! We will be working through that together. Click here to register your team.

I know in January many of us make New Year’s Resolutions. One of my resolutions this year is to be more present - learn to enjoy what is happening in the moment. I know throughout your day as a school counselor there are many “moments” - some joyful, some difficult, and some heartbreaking. Thank you for always being present and in the moment with your students. What you do matters every day. I look forward to this new year and all that it has to offer. Remember to take care of yourselves this year, to live in the moment, and to remember the positive impact you have on students and families. Happy New Year!!!!

Michelle Obama
First Lady Michelle Obama speaks about counselors at the School Counselor of the Year Ceremony. Dr. Michelle Taylor is in the back row, fourth from the left.

Dr. Michelle Taylor Represents Oklahoma in National School Counselor of the Year Ceremony

By Dr. Michelle Taylor, Oklahoma School Counselor of the Year - Our nation’s capital, rich with history and grandeur, has energy and a sense unlike any other.  The American School Counselor’s Association 2017 School Counselor of the Year celebration commenced in Washington D.C. beginning at the White House and was punctuated with a black tie gala at historic Union Station.  The culmination of the day’s excitement was the emotional delivery of Michelle Obama’s final public remarks as First Lady at the White House on Jan. 6, 2017.  The distinct honor of being part of an audience of school counselors receiving Mrs. Obama’s final official remarks uplifted all who heard her invigorating words.

The First Lady poignantly directed her statements to the purpose of restoring hope in young people: “It is our fundamental belief in the power of hope that has allowed us to rise above the voices of doubt and division.”  With her voice cracking she said, “Our hope that if we work hard and we believe in ourselves, then we can be whatever we dream regardless of the limitation that others would place on us.”  

Her powerful sentiments certainly apply to students, and they are profoundly effectual for anyone.  Mrs. Obama has utilized her unique voice as a platform for her BetterMakeRoom (BetterMakeRoom.org) and ReachHigher (ReachHigher.gov) initiatives, rallying the continued support of activists in the entertainment business, as well as other public figures. Among those who joined our celebration were the University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, Usher, actress Connie Britton, The Chew’s Carla Hall, Andy Cohen and comedian Jay Pharoah.  As one can imagine, selfies and mingling with celebrities was a thrilling highlight in the celebration.

Mrs. Obama spoke with a keen understanding to school counselors as she challenged us to see this as only the beginning; she is leaving public service but plans to continue her work with students and college readiness projects.  

“You see the promise in each of your students, and you do it all in the face of some overwhelming challenges. You stick with students in their darkest moments,” Mrs. Obama said. As a part of a unified room of school counselors, hearing these words, knowing it was her last public address, I felt a renewed resolve to diligently focus our efforts to create something better for millions of students around the nation.

Michelle Obama’s assistant, Mr. Eric Waldo, led the counselor panel and spoke that evening at the gala.  He referenced the First Lady’s efforts and her desire to “live her truth.”  This statement resonated in my mind and caused me to reflect on my truth.  Representing my state as 2017 Oklahoma School Counselor of the Year has been an unparalleled honor in my career and as I continue to work in the public school in Adair, this experience has prompted a dedication to live my truth, igniting students and rejuvenating colleagues to be tireless in their efforts to leave a lasting legacy of hope.

Oklahoma educators and Oklahoma School Counselors are equal to the task of generating an environment conducive to the success of our students.  As Michelle Obama plans to continue her advocacy, I invite you to join me in sharing her belief that we can all Reach Higher.

Michelle Taylor met several celebrities, including Connie Britton, Jim Harbough and Carla Hall.

Nominations Open for 2018 School Counselor of the Year

The Oklahoma School Counseling Association is currently accepting nominations for the 2018 School Counselor of the Year. This year the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), celebrated all state School Counselor of the Year winners in Washington, DC, where they were recognized at the White House by Michelle Obama.  

If you know a school counselor who is running a top notch school counseling program, please nominate him or her! Nominations will close on March 31, 2017. Go to http://osca.schoolcounselorawards.org to nominate someone today!

The Student Advisory Team on Bullying met on Jan. 23 to discuss bullying in Oklahoma. The team came up with recommendations for an action plan for the state. Students from across the state represented rural, suburban, and urban districts at this meeting.

Contact Information

Shelly and Michelle

Shelly Ellis, M.Ed.
Executive Director of Counseling
(405) 521-3549

Michelle Sutherlin, MHR
Director of Prevention Services
(405) 521-2106




Both our counseling site and prevention site are always changing with new updates and information! Check back often to see the updates!



Have you checked out our new TRAINING FOR COUNSELORS page? We have put all of our training in one location for you to find. Check it out!



American School Counselors Association

Oklahoma School Counselors Association

International Bullying Prevention Association 

Oklahoma Counseling Association


OCA Mid-Winter ConferenceIBPA Conference

For Counselors Only Conference

ASCA National Conference

Awareness Calendar 


Random Acts of Kindness Week – Feb. 14-20

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week – Feb. 21-27

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month


Self-Injury Awareness Day – 

March 1
Kick Butts Day (tobacco free) – March 15 


National Youth Violence Prevention Week – April 3-7
Day of Silence – April 15
Sexual Assault Awareness Month Day of Action – April 4
Alcohol Awareness Month
Child Abuse Prevention Month
Sexual Assault Awareness Month
National Counselor Awareness Month


World No Tobacco Day – May 31
National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week – May 7-13


Resources Always Available

The office of prevention services has a resource library with about 150 items that you can check out and have mailed to you at any time! There are 66 DVDs, 19 curriculum, and 64 books available. Click the links below to see the list and print the form to check out materials.

Resource Library Check-Out Form

Resource Library List

How Can We Help You?

There are many ways we can serve you as the counseling team at the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Here are some specific ways:

We offer webinars at least once a month on different topics. Each webinar is free and offers CEUs.

We are available to come to you to do live trainings in some cases.

We are available to conduct a direct webinar with your site only.

We are planning on hosting training for crisis teams this spring.

We have tons of resources available to you through our web site and our resource library.

We are available to answer your questions or concerns any time. Just call or email us!

We are able to respond to a crisis in your school district. We can help guide you through your process to respond with best practices.