By David Boyce
Dana Combs enjoyed teaching elementary school children in Kansas City, KS, teaching 10 years at two elementary schools. During that period, Combs noticed she was making a difference in other ways that went beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Combs was working with students who had some emotional issues and home-life issues.
“I just felt like as a teacher, I wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do,” Combs said. “I wasn’t really able to work with students on their emotional issues because we are teaching and getting kids ready for standardized tests and that kind of stuff.”
“I felt I wanted to do more. I thought I would go back to school and be a counselor. I got my second masters in counseling. I went from there.”
After meeting the requirements to become a school counselor, Combs headed across state line and found herself at Liberty High School. She spent five years there. For the last five years, Combs has been a counselor at Liberty North High School, a school she adores.
One of the best things she hears from new students transferring to Liberty North and is how welcoming the students are to newcomers.
“I think that is a neat thing to hear,” Combs said. “I feel like our North students are really good kids. Overall, they are friendly and they care about each other. Kids say our counseling office is a welcoming environment.”
Combs and all the school counselors in Liberty Public Schools should expect a few more kind words this week in National School Counseling Week sponsored by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA).
The purpose of the week is to focus public attention on the unique contribution of school counselors within U.S. school systems. Each day has a different theme. On Tuesday it is put the School in School Counselor and Wednesday it is Appreciation followed by Passion for Thursday and College/Career Readiness on Friday.
“My purpose,” Combs said, “is to help students first. That is the biggest thing. We have a lot of students with social and emotional issues, making it hard for them to function in the classroom. My role is to help students work through some of those issues so they can be productive in the classroom, be able to learn and make it through the day.”
Combs has the background to help students who might be feeling anxiety about a particular issue in their life. Combs went from teaching elementary students in schools that were either 99 percent African American or very diverse to counseling high school students in a suburban school district.
“When I did my internship at the middle and high school level, I absolutely loved high school kids,” Combs said. “That is why I ended up switching from elementary to high school.
“For me, the difference as an elementary school teacher, I was more in a motherly role. They are younger. They still have a lot of developing to do. With the high school kids, I felt like as a counselor, they are able to communicate better. I like being able to do counseling, therapy-type work with high school students who can verbalize how they are feeling.”
After Combs landed at Liberty, she recognized she belonged there for a reason.
“I came here and there wasn’t much diversity,” she said. “It was hard for me. What I realized was I had a place here. I felt like minority students needed a role model and see someone in the position I have. It has been my passion to work with diversity since I have been here at Liberty.”
Combs is a sponsor for Black Students United, and before that, the Diversity Club.
“The purpose is for our black students here to have a comfortable place to talk about issues and concerns and learn a little bit more about their culture,” she said.
The thing that Combs enjoys about LPS is the way the school district values the work of the school counselors.
“The district office sees that we are needed here,” Combs said.
Combs also gets reminders from students that her work is appreciated.
“Honestly, I think a good day is when a student just says thank you for helping them or get a little a note,” she said. “I got a little note the other day from a student that said thank you so much for helping me with my college application. A simple thank you from the kids makes me feel good about what I have done.”