• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Teacher of the Year: Supporting ‘a whole individual’ as counselor


BIANCA BARGO, a guidance counselor, appreciates being able to work collaboratively with Southside Elementary School’s administrative team to provide help to students with behavioral needs so they can have success in the classroom. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Like a lot of teenagers, Southside Elementary School guidance counselor Bianca Bargo didn’t know what career she wanted to pursue after she graduated from high school in Barbourville. The Eastern Kentucky native says she didn’t realize that school counseling suited her until she was able to help her customers through some difficult times while working in retail. As an undergraduate student at the University of Kentucky, Bargo volunteered at Cassidy Elementary School. Working with the Lexington school’s refugee and English Language Learner students, helped her realize working with children “might be a good fit.” So she enrolled at Eastern Kentucky University to earn a master’s degree and Rank 1 in school counseling. “When I got into the school counseling program,” explains Bargo, “it felt like a great fit because it was focusing on all these things that I think are very important to support a whole individual.” Counseling’s focus on empowering a student to make something positive happen in his or her life resonated with her, she adds. By the time Bargo was doing her internship and practicum work to earn a master’s degree in school counseling at EKU, she was already working full-time as instructional assistant at Cassidy Elementary. Bargo began her counseling career after being hired by Woodford County Public Schools in November 2014, when federal grant dollars that were awarded to the district paid for additional half-time counselor positions at Huntertown and Southside elementary schools. She spent two more school years as a half-time counselor at Huntertown and Southside before grant dollars were no longer available for additional counseling positions in the elementary schools. “I very much valued being able to work with a team that is respectful, encouraging, supportive, kind. That I feel I’m a part of. And there’s been no shortage of that. Both of my buildings (Huntertown and Southside), basically made me feel like I was a member of the family almost immediately,” said Bargo. Knowing she would no longer have a counseling position and not wanting to leave the district, which she described as her home, Bargo applied to become the family resource coordinator for Huntertown and Southside. She left that position when the Woodford County Board of Education provided funding prior to the 2017-18 school year for a second counselor position at Southside, based on its enrollment of over 500 students. Returning to Southside was an opportunity for Bargo to follow through on initiatives and programs that had begun during her previous two-and-a-half years as a half-time counselor there. “I can come up with programs that are specific to social and emotional needs that affect the kids directly,” says Bargo of her role as school counselor. She appreciates being able to work collaboratively with her school’s administrative team to provide help to students with behavioral needs so they can have success in the classroom. “I get to drive those things more intentionally from this level,” says Bargo, who shares guidance counseling duties and responsibilities with Debbie Spears at Southside. Asked what makes her most fulfilled in her work, Bargo says, “Any moment of connection with the kids” so she can build a relationship with them and help them navigate their problems in school and life. (This is the first in a series of seven feature stories about Woodford County Public Schools’ 2016-17 Teachers of the Year.)

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