May 27, 2015 Edition

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Hoxie High School Counselors Donna Pinkston (left) and Andrea Vancil meet in Pinkston's office. Pinkston was recently informed that she will be honored as secondary counselor of the year at the ArSCA summer conference on July 13 in Hot Springs.
TD Photo ~ Megan Heyl

Pinkston named secondary
counselor of the year

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

Hoxie High School Counselor Donna Pinkston was recently named secondary counselor of the year by the Arkansas School Counselor Association.

She has been with Hoxie School for 34 years and said the honor is as much a reflection of her school as herself.

"This school has given me such an opportunity and they trust me," she said.

Through support from her fellow counselors and the school administration, Pinkston said she has grown as a counselor and really appreciates all they do for her.

In fact, it was former Hoxie counselor Richard Alexander, known by most as Mr. A, who encouraged Pinkston to become a counselor after she asked important questions about some of her students in remedial classes.

While teaching, there were children who were capable of working the material but struggled, often because something was happening in their home life.

"I wanted to see why kids were having trouble learning," she said.

Pinkston said she was inspired by Mr. A's programs, which helped students to build their self-esteem, something that a lot of kids struggle with as they get older.

She said many of the things she learned from his programs were used when developing her own programs, which was one of the criteria the ASCA used to select her as counselor of the year. Pinkston said she had to submit a packet, which included information about the programs she developed, pictures of her work and five letters of recommendation.

She added that the honor was that much more special since they take the time to review so much.

Fellow Hoxie counselor Katie Compton was the one who nominated Pinkston.

"Ms. Pinkston has been a wonderful mentor, but more importantly a friend to me during the last four years," Compton said. Pinkston helped Compton as she was finishing up her degree and starting out at Hoxie. "She was a constant source of support and guidance."

Early years
at Hoxie

Pinkston began her teaching career with remedial math, elementary PE and coaching basketball and track.

Initially she wanted to be a coach, at least after her dreams of being a veterinarian were dashed when she realized she couldn't handle euthanizing animals.

"I grew up in an athletic family," she said. "I was always a leader."

Pinkston taught high school health, physical education and even started the volleyball program for the Mustangs.

She has served as high school counselor for 22 years and also teaches concurrent psychology and sociology classes, allowing students to earn college credit while in high school.

Pinkston said the transition from coach to counselor offered some insight she wasn't expecting. She said as a coach when a student said they had a bad night, her response was typically to tell them to run laps anyway. However, as a counselor, she may learn that same student has been at home listening to their parents fight.

She said she tries to remind coaches not to be too hard on students because there are often things going on at home they are not aware of.

Students
come first

Pinkston said she is grateful to Principal Kelly Gillham for her support and understanding of a counselor's role. She said Gilham has told her no matter what she is in the middle of, if a student comes in and needs to talk, drop everything and talk.

When she's actually in a counseling session, she said the most important thing a counselor can do is listen. She said a counselor shouldn't give opinions or make choices for the student. Instead she said just listen to them and guide them to make their own decision.

"Sometimes that's the hardest thing to not give your opinion," Pinkston said. "I'm a Hicks and if you know anything about Hickses, you know we have our opinions."

However, she said that just listening to them and letting them know that someone is there for them is what motivates students best. She said they can talk to her more openly than they may be able to talk to their parents.

Being a counselor, Pinkston said she has learned to observe people. She can often tell if something is wrong with a student by the way they act and their body language.

A call for
counselors

Pinkston said there is nothing quite like being a counselor.

"Every day is different," she said. From talking about personal struggles, to keeping up with how students are doing academically to preparing them for college, she said she is never quite sure what she'll be doing next.

"If you have a good heart and love working with kids, I encourage you to consider becoming a counselor because we are scarce," she said.

She said it can feel like a 24/7 job at times but it's worth it.

Pinkston and her husband, Mike, have three children, Steve and Stephanie, who are her step-children but have always called her mother, and recently adopted Mya, who is a sixth-grader at Hoxie.

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