Bettendorf counselors emphasize mental health when planning for the 2020 school year

All hands on deck: The counselors and support staff strive to make a challenging 2020 year easier on students by providing support for emotional and mental health needs.

By Hialeah Bever

Bettendorf High School counselors knew this year was going to be hard on mental health. That's why they decided to make it a priority for the 2020/2021 school year.

The first concern that counselors had was when to begin planning.

“We started planning for this school year pretty much as soon as we started shutting down in March. We worked on Social-Emotional Lessons as well as ways to check in with students as much as possible so we could be there for [them],” said Danielle Breier.

“We knew we had to be done by mid-May but needed the perimeters on COVID-19 to begin building student schedules,” said Loralee Cole.

As many teachers and staff have said, this year was hard to prepare for, as the pandemic and the new online learning format created issues that they weren’t familiar with.

“There's just a lot of uncertainty,” said Breier, “Things have changed quickly and every week it seems there is new information that could potentially change the way we do things.”

Among other obstacles, the most daunting challenge for the department was assuring that students are successful. This particular challenge was compounded by the fact that some students are 100 percent online.

“For hybrid, even though they are here some of the time, they are doing tests a lot on their in-school days. Teachers have to get through the content a bit quicker and then on their at-home days [students are] trying to make the adjustment and that can be hard,” said Harksen. “For online, it’s trying to connect [with students] as much as possible while being at home and some students just don’t learn that way, and it’s nobody’s fault, but they are trying to grasp the material.”

“We are trying to support the whole system, but all in all students come first. So our main concern is how students are coping with some really big challenges right now,” said Amy Harksen.

To address the mental toll these changes might have on students, the counselors have developed several ways to help students stay in touch with the school and improve their mental health.

“We are offering daily Zoom sessions during PRIDE to make ourselves available to everyone. Coach Freking and Mrs. Heiting have also done a ton of work organizing a Canvas page for our online learners that includes a night PRIDE session for students (check out Bett News for information on this and links). Also, the counselors and staff in student services are working so hard to connect with everyone and make sure they have what they need,” said Breier.

There are ways the students can improve their mental health at home by making active efforts to join class, participating, and keeping a routine.

“I can't say this enough, students have to make a daily schedule and stick with it! More importantly, that daily schedule should include getting up at an appropriate time,” said Breier.

Finally, the counselors expressed the importance of asking for help on what students are struggling with.

“I hope students know that what they're dealing with matters and that if they feel afraid to air that, we understand. Our goal is to help [students] feel like [they] have an ally and support because I know it's hard sometimes for students to come in or let someone know. [They] need to understand that that is our entire job to be a supporter so please do not hesitate to reach out,” said Harksen.

Hialeah is a sophomore. This is her first year

as a staff writer for "The Growl."


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