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Staff Spotlight: Hayes Honer, Lower School Counseling

Staff Spotlight: Hayes Honer, Lower School Counseling

It was with pure gratititude that I was hired as a part-time Lower School Counselor in November, 2022. My role at Stuart has evolved and now I get the priviledge of supporting all of lower school students and the 5th and 6th grades with their social and emotional wellbeing. I'm a big believer in early intervention. Research has shown that healthy attachment in early education can lead to better self-regulation and self-confidence, both of which are a great combination for academic achievement. As a school counselor, one of my main goals is to provide that safe space for all students to learn more about themselves and help them discover their individual strengths. It takes a lot of learning to navigate through those early years and our students have the ability to practice lifelong skills through play, creativity and simply talking through those social challenges.

What do you enjoy the most about your work?

I love that I get to work with students from various ages and different cultural backgrounds. The students teach me something new all the time! It also helps that I'm surrounded by such supportive educators and leaders (and future leaders)!

Who/what had the greatest influence on your career path?

I was 40 when I flinally asked myself "what do I want to be when I grow up?". My thoughts always came back to my high school counselor and how she was so influencial on helping me discover my strengths. She was one of the main reasons why I decided to get my masters with a concentration in School Counseling. She offered me a place where I could discuss everyday challenges and guided me in the right direction when I was feeling self-doubt and anxious about the future. I'm truly grateful for those meetings with her and I reflect on how different my outcome would have been without her support.

What is your best piece of advice?

I recently read that gratitude and anxiety cannot exist in the brain at the same time. That concept has really stuck with me and I use it with my students. Both students and adults struggle with those automatic, negative thoughts (ANTS) and when those ANTS come marching in, I like to hit them with a dose of gratitude. I know it sounds easier said than done, but to quote my amazing colleague Mrs. Ezra, "practice with purpose makes progress".

Tell us about your research interests and/or recent professional development.

I recently attended the ADVIS & NJAIS Wellness Summit in early December and was able to participate in sessions that involved movement for wellness and building community - both I plan to implement more with students and staff. I see such a difference in motivation when I bring out a game or activity that involves movement.

The Fun Stuff:

Favorite Food:  Anything with avocado

Favorite Song: Bright Side of the Road - Van Morrison (or anything by PINK)

Hidden Talents or Skills: Playing golf with my family (recently had lessons) and finishing the daily NYT mini games app on my phone (I'm feeling especially confident with my Wordle achievements).