Teacher Spotlight: Autumn Carr
Autumn Carr is a school counselor at Baltimore City College High School, where she has worked for 10 years. Prior to coming to City, Ms. Carr spent 5 years teaching first and second grade at James Mosher Elementary School.
What motivated you to become a school counselor?
My mother and high school counselor (whom I’m lucky to be working alongside) inspired me to go into School Counseling. At the conclusion of my senior year in undergrad, I was awarded a scholarship for Graduate School. At that time I wasn’t sure what to study and with the help of my mother who is a former educator in BCPSS and the relationship I had with my former high school counselor, I chose to study School Counseling.
What does your job entail?
No two days are ever the same. I am an advocate, protector, cheerleader, motivator, and so much more. I work with students and provide social/emotional and academic support. In this role I am fortunate to not only work with students, but also with their families and our teachers and school support staff to collaboratively help students thrive in all areas. But my main role is to make sure students graduate on time!
Aside from being a school counselor, you are also an athletic academic advisor, and an after-school College and Career Readiness Program Lead. Additionally, you oversee Student Ambassadors, shadow visitors, and co-lead the On Track to Graduate (OTG) initiative. How do you balance all of these responsibilities?
I’m still learning how to balance it all, along with two young children. But, I have the best students, administration, school counseling team and family support to help me manage it all. Luckily, some of the work is seasonal, but for the year-long roles, I try to plan ahead and stay as organized as I can – a skillset that is still a work in progress for me!
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
The relationships! I love getting to know my students and watching over four years as they flourish from intimidated 9th graders to the confident changemakers who are setting out to do great things on their college campuses, in the military, or in the working world. I even had four of my students participate in my wedding!
What have these last few years been like for you as a school counselor and for the students you serve, as you coped with the pandemic, virtual learning, and the return to in-person instruction?
Going through a global pandemic was tough across the board like it has been for many others around the world. My current class cohort was in 8th grade when we all “went home” and they had to transition to high school in a virtual setting. As we all know, transitioning from one school to another can be challenging, but doing this online and to a school of high expectations was difficult for a lot of my students. We were fortunate that we were able to adjust our schedule to incorporate SEL on Wednesdays to support students through this new normal. I was excited to come back in person, as seeing my students brought me joy. I was so glad to kiss the black squares on Zoom goodbye! One of my biggest challenges/frustrations due to COVID is that I still don’t know all of my students by face and name. I pride myself on being able to call all 300+ of my students by name by the start of their Junior year! My new goal is by the start of next year, which is their senior year.
What are you looking forward to in this new school year and what challenges or difficulties do you expect to face this year?
I am looking forward to more engagement with my students, continued support as we still work through this pandemic, celebrating the highs and pushing through the lows.
There is a major shortage of teachers and support staff right now, both here in Baltimore and nationally. How do you think this will impact schools, students, and staff? What do you think the solution is?
I am again fortunate to work in a building that is fully staffed. But I know that is not the case for many schools in our district and across the country. Shortages will further the gaps we experienced due to COVID, but I am hopeful that with collaborative and innovative efforts we will lessen those gaps. Educating young people is one of the hardest careers, and unfortunately our compensation doesn’t match the blood, sweat and tears we put into this profession every day. It is my hope that one day changes. In recent years, BTU has had an increased focus on making sure that the unique needs and working conditions of Related Service Providers like counselors are reflected in the contract and that RSPs have a voice in District policy.
Are there any changes or improvements you would like to see in the way that school counselors are utilized in BCPSS?
I am grateful that my peers and I at my school are valued. School Counselors are the heartbeat of the school! I am thrilled with the extra efforts to not group us with teachers all the time but focus on our different and unique roles. Why is being a BTU member important to you? I am proud to be a member of the BTU, to have an organization that advocates and protects its members, puts my mind at ease and allows me to focus on my work.