Counselor Profile: Aaron Kellar

DCSD Counselor Profile: Aaron Kellar, Castle View High School
Posted on 02/10/2020
Counselor Profile: Aaron Kellar
Castle View High School

Aaron Kellar has been a Castle View High School (CVHS) Sabercat for 13 years, sometimes working with 600 individual students per year. Thanks to the local Mill-Levy Override (MLO) funding awarded in 2018, he can now form connections with students on a deeper level to help them personalize their post-graduation plan. Stacy Blaylock, DCSD Communications Coordinator, sat down with Kellar to learn more about how he and his team are capitalizing on a lower student-to-counselor ratio at the school.

This is your thirteenth year at CVHS. What has changed since you first began?

Each year it’s changing. Most recently, we’ve changed the way we approach Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Concurrent Enrollment (CE). We’re trying to get students to think creatively about dual enrollments, to think outside the box. Thanks to a partnership with Arapahoe Community College (ACC), students can earn their Associate of Arts through dual enrollment. Next year, students will be able to pursue ACC’s Nursing Assistant program while they attend Castle View High School.

How do you approach postgraduate counseling?

We really get to know students so that we can help them transition into adulthood and the next phase of life. Each student has a one-on-one meeting with the counselor every year from the time they are a freshman. Other students work with their counselor more often, depending on their needs. It’s amazing to find out what’s going on that you wouldn’t have noticed if the student didn’t come in for their mandatory meeting. It’s a time when students can open up, when we can teach them skills, and when we can talk about the next transition together.

We’re all about finding a good postgraduate fit for students. For example, one student I worked with got really excited about nutrition. So we began talking about the field, looking at job openings and researching programs. Based on her GPA and test scores, we found a really great program at Metropolitan State University for her. She had a solid game plan for her senior year to get her into that program.

How are you able to pay such individualized attention to students in a school with over 2,000 students?

With the MLO funding we received, we were able to add five new counseling positions. There’s a much lower student-to-counselor ratio now. I’m now working with about 300 students each year rather than 600, like I was 10 years ago. I can spend more intentional time with students and their families to really understand their needs. We can do so much more than we ever could!

Can you share a story about how this individualized attention from counselors benefits students?

Some of our most successful graduates can be middle-level students. For example, one of my former students wasn’t a top academic performer -- he barely had a 3.0 GPA. But he’s so intelligent! So we worked together on his postgraduate plans and college entrance exams. He scored a 30 on his ACT and earned a scholarship to a science program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He’s now one of the top students there and will soon start graduate school. His story really shows the power of counselors building personal connections with students, someone outside of his family, encouraging and guiding him. That’s been very rewarding for me.

What else has the MLO funding enabled you to do?

I’m able to connect with my colleagues, colleges, and families more often. It’s easier to stay in constant communication, maintain consistency, and share best practices. It’s also easier to engage with families and students who are disengaged from school for whatever reason. We personally invite families in for meetings just to start creating connections and communication.

And our after-school resources for families have just flourished. We host information fairs regularly, but we’ve seen a huge increase in English Language Development (ELD) students and families attending. We asked teachers to invite families so that they know we care personally, and they are valued. As a result, we’re getting a lot of thank-yous, a lot of parents showing up to meetings, some taking off work to do so. They feel it’s important to come in and to be part of this process with their students. People feel more empowered to use us as a resource for their students.

Thanks for sitting down with me, Aaron! Good luck with the rest of the school year.

You bet! This is a really special time for school counselors, and I’m really excited about the things I’m seeing.

For more information on MLO funding, please visit the MLO/Bond Updates page.
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