Thurston Middle School has two counselors, Amanda Vander Veen (serving students with last names starting with the letters A-K) and Aubrey Garcia (serving students with last names starting with the letters L-Z), and one Student Support Specialist, Ashley Blum. All three work with students in academic, social-emotional, and career domains. Students and parents can make appointments with counselors by emailing or calling the school. The counseling team believes that all students can be personally and academically successful by using the school and community resources available to them.
Amanda Vander Veen
In grade six, students face new challenges as they leave the relative comfort of one elementary school classroom and move through a day where they have a variety of teachers each with different styles, expectations, and personalities. Acclimating to this new environment is exacerbated by the personal and physical changes of adolescence. Friends from elementary school may seek new friendships as students from El Morro and Top of the World—as well as other locations worldwide—meet. Adolescent bodies change and students must add hygiene to their never ending list of responsibilities. In the early fall, after the three-day science trip that all sixth graders attend, students become more familiar—and more successful—with the regimen of their academic schedules. To help guide this journey, counselors present a workshop to sixth grade Language Arts classes that introduces 6th through 8th grade academic and elective options as well as resources and strategies that fortify their social-emotional well being. Counselors are available to help students, and their parents, effectively navigate the changes that occur during this transitional year.
During grade seven, students explore a variety of interests and start to see the connection between classroom learning, social status, and their world at large. The need to stay organized, attentive, and conscientious becomes imperative as their academics demand more effort and time. Balancing outside activities and demands with study time is an important learning curve that begins this year. While being versatile is important, at times, parents must limit their child’s myriad activities to protect them from being overly scheduled. Seventh grade is a time of physical growth and sleep time should not be underestimated! As seventh graders grow, they search for how they belong—in their group of classmates and in the world. Counselors meet with social studies classes and present an online college and career program, Naviance, that students will employ throughout their 8th-12th grade years. The preliminary step in grade seven is for students to respond to a questionnaire that will match their qualities and preferences with career options. Students enjoy seeing how their personal qualities and academic abilities lead to professions. As seventh graders contemplate their futures, they desire more autonomy and want to make their own decisions. While seeking independence, seventh graders often tend to move beyond their parents’ cautious reach. Instead, they frequently turn to and depend on peers for a level of approval and acceptance. Counselors encourage students to create trusting relationships with peers and parents by making positive choices.
In grade eight, students focus on and improve their peer relationships, social skills, and problem-solving abilities. Less sensitive to the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” they begin to take responsibility for their actions—both socially and academically. They are better at the concept of delayed gratification, which makes them understand the need to perform their best on a daily basis so that their critical thinking, knowledge base—and, ultimately, their grades—improve. They more readily identify their strengths and accept their weaknesses, which helps guide their decision making. As eighth graders learn to forge their futures, counselors meet with social studies again to explore the resources on Naviance where students are prompted to investigate how their classes, grades, activities, likes and dislikes lead to a multitude of colleges and career paths. In spring, as students prepare to transition to high school, Laguna Beach High School counselors meet with science classes and present information about high school graduation requirements, academic pathways that lead to careers, colleges and universities. Thurston Middle School counselors meet individually with eighth grade families to answer questions and consider a balance of academic, elective, and athletic options for high school. Counselors facilitate students and families on the fun-filled, but harrowing journey that is called middle school.