Story and photos
by Joyce Hensley
To Jill Sabo, school counselor at A.C. Houghton Elementary, her role with the students is more than a job. She genuinely cares about the children and how they are doing in and out of school. And the students sense Sabo's honest interest in them. Everywhere she goes in the school, students call to her, "Hello, Mrs. Sabo. Hello, Mrs. Sabo."
"The kids are so enthusiastic," she said. "I get lots of hugs. I get to see every kid."
She even goes out at recess sometimes to play with the children. "I feel lucky to be in this group," said Sabo, now in her second year at the school. "I've never had so many great interactions. I've never been with so many kids that are fun to be around."
Sabo not only counsels the students one-on-one when they are referred to her by a teacher, she also has many children walk in to her office to share their problems.
"I take care of things as they come up," she said.
The children who touch her heart the deepest are the ones who come from broken homes, homes without structure, where there are alcohol or drug addictions, or abusive situations.
"My biggest problem is, there is not enough time," she said. "Kids that are at high risk or kids who are left out, there barely seems enough time to deal with their needs. I really care about the kids. It's hard to do everything I want to do. Sometimes I feel guilty that I can't do more at times."
In a new program initiated at the start of this school year, Sabo spends 30 minutes once a week in each classroom presenting character education.
She says building their character is one of her highest priorities. Sabo wants them to value their own character.
"I want them to realize that there is a person inside them that they can control, that they always take with them," she said. "No one can take it away from them. I hope it makes a difference in the way they think about themselves."
Over the school year she has been talking to the students about respect, responsibility, friendships, citizenship, a positive attitude, conflict resolution, and setting personal goals.
Sabo sees her role as part of a team at A.C. Houghton.
"I work with people who are very helpful, who give a lot of support to the kids," she said. "My job is counselor, but our roles mesh."
Sabo earned a bachelor's degree in psychiatry from Western Oregon University in Monmouth and a master's degree in counseling from Western Seminary in Portland.