Portraits of a Division

Here at ACPS, we know just how great our students and staff are and have decided to share that knowledge with our community. With our Portraits of a Division series, we aim to highlight students and staff on a frequent basis to show just how awesome our school community is. Below you will find the most recent portrait. For older portraits, see our archive at the bottom of the page.

Portrait of an ACPS Staff Member: Amy Wright

One fun fact about Amy Wright, the Director of School Counseling at Western Albemarle, is that she herself did not enjoy high school. 

“I hated it with a capital ‘H’,” she said. Which is funny, she continued, considering she’s worked in high schools for more than 20 years. She’s a great example for her students because when she was in high school herself, she had no idea what she wanted to do after.

“I was working 40 hours a week at a Wegman’s in New York, and my parents told me my choices were either to go to college, or move out on my own,” she said. Despite her full-time job, she still didn’t make enough to pay for her own apartment. “So, I went to the local community college.”

There, she studied to be a music teacher, and in her first job as a high school music teacher, discovered how much she loved working with high school students.

“If you’re not here for the kids,” she said, “you should get another job.”

After a year of teaching music, she went back to school and got her masters degree in school counseling and shortly thereafter became a counselor.

“I really wanted to get to know the kids and their families,” she said. “As a counselor, I get to stay with the same kids all through high school and watch them grow.”

During those four years, Amy said, she works with her students across three major domains: academics, college and career readiness, and mental wellness.

The Academic Side

The academic side, she said, is the one most people think of when they think of school counselors. It consists of checking grades, making sure transcripts are correct, and working with her students to make sure that they have all the credits they need to graduate.

This includes meeting individually with each student in their caseload to keep them on track and help them register for courses for the next school year.

“We work in a really great county that’s committed to keeping our caseload at the recommended 250 or less,” Amy said. “The academic side is an important part of the job, but it’s the administrative part.”

The College and Career Readiness Side
A bulletin board in the Western Albemarle cafeteria displays reasons why the school counselors there love their job.

Her favorite aspect is probably the college and career readiness domain. This is when she really gets to know her students, Amy said.

“When we sit down and start to talk about what they might want to do after high school, I want to give them an outlet where they have permission to dream,” she said. This way, she can gauge their interests and suggest the courses they can take to get closer to that dream.

One way to do this, she said, is to suggest one of our new Career Learning Communities that will be available come this fall.

“For instance,” she said, “if a student says they really like math and want to be an engineer, I can get them started in that Career Learning Community to see if they would like being an engineer.”

The Career Learning Communities, or programs like CATEC, give the students time to figure out if what they think they like is actually what they like.

“The students can get some experiences in the field, and it’s better for them to learn now that, ‘Hey, I actually think I don’t like this,’ or, ‘Hey, I really do love this,’ than to spend years doing something they don’t like because they got too far down the path or even accrue some debt over it.”

The Mental Wellness Side

The most important part of being a counselor in her opinion, Amy said, is the mental wellness aspect.

“The mental wellness of students really affects all parts of their education,” she said. “Sometimes, teachers will come to us and say, ‘Hey, I’ve noticed this student’s grades are slipping, is something going on?’”

And, if something is going on in a student’s personal life that’s affecting their education, Amy said, she can step in and help. Whether it’s helping connect a student and their family to outside resources or simply listening to what’s going on, her job is to make sure her students are getting the support they need.

“It’s not always life or death,” Amy said, “but sometimes it can be. Some days you walk in the building and think, “Whose life am I going to save today?’”

All the Other Things

As if operating in the three major domains of being a school counselor wasn’t enough, Amy’s team works every day to make sure that all of their students and families are supported in whatever ways they need. The Western Albemarle team works together to coordinate with several local programs that provide support to community members. 

In the winter, the team partners with Crozet Baptist Church to help provide families with food during the holidays in the hopes of alleviating some food insecurity. They also work with The Green Olive Tree to help provide clothing and other essentials to families that need them, just to list a few of the many partnership programs the Western counselors coordinate.

Her team, Amy said, is what she’s most proud of in this position.

“I think every school counselor is a leader, so we make sure that every counselor here at Western is in a leadership role in some capacity,” she said. Whether it’s the AVID program, coordinating with Region 10 services, or helping with testing, each counselor has a project that they lead throughout the year.

“We’re a great team that wants to do the job right.”

If students are interested in joining a Career Learning Community in the fall, they should speak to their counselor about their options during course registration for the upcoming school year.