The Spirited School Counselor

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Creating a Digital Portfolio


Recently I’ve received several emails from readers asking about how I created my online portfolio. While in graduate school, I was assigned to make a portfolio for my intro to school counseling course. The idea was that once we had this binder we could add things as we moved through the program and we could use it during our job hunt. This is exactly what I did, but then I decided I wanted to showcase my knowledge and ability to use technology, hence the online portfolio.


I spent a lot of time researching and planning prior to creating my online portfolio. I looked at many different sites that would support my portfolio and ultimately decided to use Weebly. Weebly is super user friendly. They have a beautiful, clean site that is easy to navigate. They use drag and drop features so it really is easy to build a website. You can see how it works on this youtube video! You can also check out this step-by-step tutorial presented on Weebly’s own website. I also liked weebly because of the data tracker that allows me to see how many unique visitors came to my site. In case you are wondering – I am in no way affiliated with Weebly. I’ve just been really pleased with the site and customer support. There are other great portfolio sites out there, but I picked Weebly because it worked the best for me.

Once you decide which platform you are going to use then its time to create your portfolio! One of the first things you will be asked to do is create a name for your portfolio that is included in the url. I opted for my name so that my url was straightforward and simple to potential employers. You will also be asked to select a template. Templates have a lot of variety. I picked one that I could add my own personality to while also looking professional. Once you have done those two things then its time to add the content!

In my opinion these are the top things to include in a portfolio:


-Professional Statement or Philosophy

-Sample Lesson Plan

As I built my own portfolio I looked at many other prospective and working school counselors’ online portfolios. I found ideas I liked, such as a 1 page sheet on how my work aligns with the ASCA model, and realized what formats I found pleasing to the eye. I encourage you to look at other people’s portfolios in and outside of the realm of counseling to get ideas about what might work for you.

With that said, please do not copy other people’s work, mine included. One reader did exactly what I am suggesting above, she looked at a variety of portfolios to see what she liked and to get ideas for her own. Through her search she found several portfolios that used my counseling approach, either parts of it or the statement in its entirety. When I received her email my stomach sank and turned upside down. I was hurt and disappointed by a few of my fellow school counselors. I encourage you to look for inspiration but remember, there is a difference between being inspired and plagiarism.


Some questions to consider as you build your own online professional portfolio:

What is the main idea I am trying to address on this page? Is it clear to the reader? As I built my weebly I found myself constantly editing. I wanted to make sure I was not wasting space or trying to put too much information in once place. I wanted my main idea to be clear and easy to find or understand.

Are there things on my portfolio that I find distracting? As I looked at other portfolios I discovered that I had a preference about side bars, something I had never considered before. I found them to be very distracting so I created a site that does not have side bars. Going back to the first question – I thought they took away from the main idea. Is there anything on your site that could be distracting to the reader?

Is this helping my job prospects? This seems like an obvious question but really think about it. If you are building an online professional portfolio to land a job ask yourself if its helping you land a job? Is it helping you get an interview? If there is information or documents that are not helping you then don’t include it.

Is the content putting my best self forward? Have you edited your portfolio? Just as typos are frowned upon on resumes and cover letters, make sure that your portfolio is making a good first impression too! Your portfolio acts as an extension of your resume. It is okay to let your personality to shine through but also make sure its professional and highlighting your strengths.

If you checked out Weebly and aren’t sure it is for you, here are a couple of articles that mention other online platforms, as well as helpful tips:

5 Good Options for Creating Digital Portfolios by Free Technology for Teachers

Creating a Teaching Portfolio Online by

Do I Need a Digital Teaching Portfolio by Edutopia

The Counseling Geek has a great resource for building your online portfolio too.


What platform did you chose for your digital portfolio? What are your must haves for your portfolio?

Thanks for stopping by!


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Getting Organized for Internship


Recently a reader reached ask out to ask if I had any suggestions for getting and staying organized through internship.

I do! I certainly wish I was more organized but I would love to share with you how I’ve stayed semi-organized over the last year while juggling internship, school, my graduate assistantship, and life.

planner-pro-week-view-1 1. Get an organizer you love and know you will use. There are tons of great ones out there. I found through my first year of graduate school that there wasn’t enough room for me in some of the smaller planners. For internship I went with a 8.5×11 sized one from Target. Some people in my cohort preferred the opposite and went with a pocket sized planner that they could easily carry with them. If you are more tech savvy then go with an online calendar. Use whatever one will work for you but USE it! Life will get super busy and some days your planner is the only thing that will help you know where you are supposed to be and at what time (or maybe that’s just me!).


2.  Dropbox is your friend. I didn’t use any cloud storage before internship but now that I do I can’t imagine life without it. Dropbox allows me to easily access my files anywhere I am. If I was working on something at home for internship I don’t have to worry about putting it on a thumb drive or printing it out because I can easily access my files from school. I love dropbox so much I actually moved the majority of my school counseling related files (coursework, resources, ect.) over winter break. My classmates and I have also found that this is an awesome way to share resources since you can share specific files. Since we have shared our files I have gained many more resources that I can easily access. The key is putting things in folders and keeping them organized like you would a file cabinet. Using dropbox is pointless if you can’t find what you are looking for so clearly label your items. *If you click on the dropbox links above and decide to sign up it will give me extra space. Once you join you will be able to share and gain more space, as well.

images (2)3. Excel is also your friend. During practicum last year I tried tracking all of my hours by hand. This made things a little tricky because I sometimes made mistakes adding up my hours (what can I say. I wasn’t a math major). This year I switched to tracking my internship hours via Excel. I am not an Excel wizard and was lucky enough to be given a pre-made form to track with; however, I think even without the form it would be easy enough to create it. The first column is type of activity:  Individual, Group, Classroom, Supervision, Consultation, Administrative, or Other. The second column is for direct time spent with students and the third column is for indirect time spent with students. These are calculated by .25 increments and up to 2 hours at a time. Column four is for the date. I only dated the first line item for that day to make it easier to see each day. The fifth and last column is for a brief description of activity. For me I note with initials who I met with since I have requirements of meeting with X number of students for X number of hours during internship. The form that was given to me totals the direct and indirect hours. At the bottom of an excel sheet there are tabs. Each tab is labeled “week 1,” “week 2,” ect.


Speaking of hours – plan ahead! For example, this year has been unique in the number of snow days the local school systems have had. Its late March and snow is still in the forecast! Because of this I stayed over Spring Break and worked several days at internship. I knew that there was snow in the forecast for the following week and I got an extra day off because of it. I was also able to enjoy the snow day because I knew I had covered the hours during break. Get your hours in early if possible. Being in schools exposes you to TONS of germs. Sickness is inevitable so try to build in some hours so you wont have to stress about it.

I also use excel to keep a running list of the students on my case load – it sometimes changes – and the dates I saw them. When I was in the high school I also noted what period I was pulling them from. I tried not to hit the same class all the time with students that I met with fairly regularly. I also noted on this excel sheet who I had permission slips to tape with as a reminder.

4. I have a notebook specifically for my internship site. At the beginning of the semester I am never sure what will end up in the notebook but I know it will get used. This semester I am in a middle school. I have a list of each grades schedule since they all vary, as well as the bell schedule for both a 1hr and 2hr delay. I have a list of the phone extensions for classrooms and offices in the school. I also have lists of students assigned to me by each of the counselors I work with. In Virginia we are mandated to complete Academic and Career Plans (ACP) with students so I also have my ACP list there. Typically I also have resources I have collected at that site, lesson plans, drafts of a newsletter, ect. Just anything and everything that is in paper form that I have gotten at or may need for internship lives in this binder. Andrea Burston shared on her blog how she made a counselor notebook, if you want to see another approach. 

download5. I like to sketch out my day when I arrive to internship. This was easier at the high school level than elementary and middle, but I still tried to do it. I do this in a small notebook that I keep in my internship bag. A counselor that I currently work with does something similar but in a word doc. She just starts fresh each day. Doing this helps me keep track of what I want to accomplish for the day.

6. Plan to take care of yourself. Internship has been an awesome experience, but with this experience I have also had some really hard days. Find things that you know will help lift your spirits when you feel like things were just way to heavy whether that is your cohort, friends from home, or your supervisor(s). Find a group of people who will lift you up when you think you are not doing enough or aren’t a good counselor. Everyone has bad days and as this new profession becomes a reality it can be overwhelming at times. The good news is the great, awesome, amazing days far outweigh the bad… but be prepared to help yourself when you do have a bad day.

What I wish I would have known…

images (1)6. Plan ahead. Something that I haven’t done enough of is planning ahead to the job hunt. I didn’t think enough about what future employers would want to see when I go into job interviews. Since it is currently job fair time, I would suggest going to one or two and chatting with school systems to see what they want from their applicants. I have found that some school systems are very data focused and want to see data when you interview. Others want to see how you have implemented ASCA into your internship experience. Other school systems want to hear more anecdotal experiences and what you have done in internship. Figure out where you want to apply and tailor your internship experience to make you the best job candidate possible.

Last Note:

Watch this video!  Andrea Burston & Danielle Shultz give some great advice about grad school, internship, and job hunting. I watched it the summer before I started internship and found it really helpful.

Thanks for stopping by!


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8 Lessons Learned From My First Year of Graduate School

8 Lessons Learned from my First Year of Grad School

Now that I have finished my first year of grad school and have one semester of my second year under my belt, I thought it may be helpful to blog about lessons I have learned over the past year.

1. Take advantage of your mentor (or the students who are further in the program)

My grad program pairs all the first year students with second year school counseling students. I was blessed with an AWESOME mentor. Matt helped me get acclimated to being back in school after working for several years. He answered dozens of my questions (and I ask a lot of questions) and supported me when I felt overwhelmed… which leads me to #2

2. Stay Organized

The beginning of the semester can be an overwhelming time – new school, new faces, new surroundings, new classes. After the first week of classes I looked through each syllabus and wondered how in the world I would get everything done. Matt kindly reminded me to stay organized and everything would get done.. He was absolutely right… and sometimes I even finished assignments before they were due. How? By staying organized.

3. Let others support you

Graduate school requires a lot of work and dedication. I am single and live solo as well. Letting others support me was an important lesson to learn. Sometimes my graduate program was more emotionally draining then I could have ever anticipated. Those days (and sometimes weeks) I really needed support from my classmates, friends, and family. Allowing them to do so was so helpful. It re-energized me and helped me put things back into perspective when I was freaking out (yes, freak outs will happen – I think it’s a required part of grad school).

4. Support your classmates 

Just like you may need support throughout school, your classmates will too. Sometimes reaching out with a simple “how are you doing?” and really mean it can be so helpful. At the beginning of my program I wasn’t sure if I would build lasting friendships with my cohort but I have. This is due to the support we have given each other. I am convinced that I will graduate with fantastic school counseling colleagues and even more importantly great friends in May.

5. Ask Questions – LOTS of Questions

Graduate school is filled with tons of new information and new experiences. Ask as many questions as you can. Grad school is a great opportunity to learn as much as possible. Take advantage of all of the resources, professors, and classmates that surround you.

6. Use the Resources Available

Colleges are full of amazing resources. Use Them! The writing center was extremely helpful in giving me a refresher on APA formatting and writing a lit review. I also recently visited the career center on campus. The student adviser there helped me create a plan for having a job application resume ready for the spring. There are many resources on campus – check them out and use them.

7. Attend Professional Development Workshops

This is one thing I really wish I had done more of during my first year of graduate school. Your student discount will only last for so long. My first year I had much more flexibility in my schedule since I wasn’t in internship yet; however, I was too nervous to attend a training my first semester. I worried that I didn’t know enough. Guess what? The point is to learn! Go to conferences and attend workshops.

8. Build a Professional Network

Get to know your professors and connect with other school counselors. This summer I have spent some time trying to discover ways to build a professional network. Twitter is a great way to connect with school counselors all over the world (@ElizabethVASC is my name). Pinterest is full of resources for school counselors. I have also found great blogs to follow. When I attend the Virginia Counselors Association conference in November I plan on going to the receptions to get to know other school counselors – to build my professional network.

What did you learn your first year of grad school?

Any tips for me as I head into my 2nd year?

Thanks for stopping by,