Counselor Profile: Kristina Hilton, Northridge Elementary

Counselor Profile: Kristina Hilton, Northridge Elementary
Posted on 01/23/2020
Counselor Profile: Kristina Hilton
Northridge Elementary

Former special education teacher Kristina Hilton is making waves at Northridge Elementary, where she works with students in developing resiliency skills and collaborates with families to meet the needs of a diverse student body.

Where were you before you came to Northridge Elementary?
Well, I spent five years teaching special education in the Sheridan School District. It was a school where many students had a high level of trauma and I found myself doing the kind of work I do now at Northridge Elementary. I found myself loving it. I loved spending lunch with the kids, helping them after school, helping them in the mornings. I realized that it was my calling, so I went back to school to earn my school counseling degree and am currently working on my Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) degree.

What is like being the first school counselor at Northridge Elementary?
It’s been great! This new role of jumping in and supporting all these kids I didn’t know was a bit challenging at first, but the community here has been so welcoming and supportive.

What was your approach to your new role?
I really wanted to work with teachers to truly meet the school’s needs. I connect them with resources from the Second Step curriculum so they can teach what they need in their classroom. Teachers can even submit an easy Google Form for when students need additional help. Meanwhile, I work with kids individually, in groups, in the classroom setting, and with families.

Mental Health Night 2019 The Resilient Me Club (fourth, fifth, and sixth grades) held a Mental Health Night last November, right?
Yes! I initially had the idea for a Mental Health Night for the school and greater community. When I shared it with the students they took it and ran with it!

What happened at Mental Health Night?
The students really led the show. They each ran their own station that showed something on the Building Resilient Me wheel. One station, for example, shared what they do in their alone time and encouraged others to write down their proactive Me Time ideas in little booklets. Another station built squishies for stress relief and one used a Polaroid selfie booth to take pictures of families together.

I’m so proud of the kids who showed off their skills. It’s important for kids to see other kids doing the right thing. It’s especially important for kids to see they can practice these types of strategies and still be a leader.

We also had members of the community come. There was a therapist, a karate instructor, yoga instructors, the aquatic center -- a ton of different resources in the community that are important to wellness. We’re definitely doing it next year!

What was your inspiration for the Mental Health Night?
I want to destigmatize talking to a counselor and that’s what people did at that event. I asked providers in the area to come and make themselves as friendly and approachable as possible. It was amazing to see parents and kids engage with each other and with community members.

What else are you doing to engage the families of Northridge Elementary?
We have this really awesome diverse student body, which I love. It also means that the school has many different needs. For example, many students are still learning English and they’re often handling a lot of trauma. Sometimes my role focuses on helping students when they can’t communicate with people around them, but they’re feeling very big things. That’s when I collaborate with families and teachers to help and support that child, no matter how uncomfortable things get. I genuinely want to help.

What would you like others to know about mental health at the elementary level?
Mental health all starts with relationships. To help kids develop strong mental health, they need to trust you and know you’re going to be there for them no matter what. That’s everything. I would encourage anyone in the teaching profession -- anyone in a school, really -- to reach out when you’re passing a kid you don’t know. Say, “Good morning,” “I like your shirt,” and “I hope you have a good day.” Those little things add up and it helps the kid know that they’re seen. At the end of the day, I want every kid to know they’re seen and valued at school.

Thanks very much for your time and insights, Kristina!
Absolutely, I can’t wait to see what these students do next!
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