Meet Joel Ford

Joel Ford
School Counselor
Conner High School (KY)

How did you get your start as a school counselor?
I spent the first eight years of my career as a social studies teacher at Lloyd Memorial High School (KY) and Campbell County High School (KY). As I was thinking about what to study for my master’s degree, I knew I didn’t want to go into a principal track, and I wanted to get a degree in something besides social studies. I didn’t really realize at the time that there were other options in education, which started me thinking about counseling.  After talking with two school counselors at Lloyd, they suggested that I really take a look into school counseling. When I started the program at Xavier University (OH), I discovered that what I liked about counseling was what I loved about teaching – interacting with and helping students. A year after finishing my degree, I was hired at Conner, and I’ve been there ever since. One of the people that interviewed me that I later worked with was Chris Reeves, who now serves on the NACAC Board of Directors. Today, I work with two teachers in my building that were former students when I taught, so I’m starting to feel as though I’ve been in education for a while now.

What is your favorite part of the job?
By far, it is interacting with students each day. No two days are the same, which I enjoy very much. Whether it is working on college/career planning, looking at courses, talking about personal issues, or just having general conversations, I really enjoy seeing students grow and mature and helping them become more than they thought they could be. I enjoy the energy that is in a school that the kids bring every day. I also love seeing students after they graduate and hearing what things they have accomplished. For the past couple of years (although I’m sure they would disagree), I have enjoyed seeing my own children in my building as they act like normal teenagers at school. I try to give them the space they deserve.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
I started going to KYACAC events early on in my career at the prodding of Chris Reeves, current Board Director, who was at Conner when I was hired and mentored me during my first two years as a counselor. Had he not encouraged me to attend, I may never have discovered either KYACAC or NACAC. Being involved in both organizations has helped me in more ways that I probably can describe here. The information that I have learned through professional development, conversations with other professionals, access to colleges/universities outside my region, and so forth add legitimacy to what I tell students and parents. The relationships I have developed with those on the other side of the desk have led to valued professional friendships, and I know that my students are in good hands working with those professionals, because they have the student’s best interest in mind. Reading NACAC publications and looking at the NACAC listserv every morning helps keep me “in the know.” Also, being involved at the state and national levels has allowed me to develop my leadership skills and to experience things I never would have had the chance to experience. From attending LDIs to advocating for students during NACAC Hill Day to meeting classmates in my Presidents’ Class from across the country and around the world, I never would have been able to have those opportunities without being involved in KYACAC and NACAC.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
From the high school side, I think the biggest challenge is with high counselor ratios. A 250:1 student-to-counselor ratio is recommended, while Kentucky is around 470:1 with many schools higher than that. Students need access to qualified, professional school counselors that understand the mental/emotional development of students and have the knowledge to provide accurate information about the college process to students and families. On the college side, I think access for students continues to center around funding at the state and national level for colleges to keep costs reasonable, to provide funding for Pell and other grant programs, etc. Despite Pell and other federal and state grant programs, there often is a financial gap that impedes students from attending college, so any increase in funding would help those students access postsecondary education.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I enjoy surfing the internet for news, spending time with family, watching sports (no matter how obscure the sport, I’ll watch it), enjoying a good meal, and going to yard sales/auctions (as my Presidents’ Class knows). I love the chase of a good bargain, and even if I come home with nothing, the fun is in the search. I also spent the past four years as an assistant archery coach at Conner, although this year I’ve stepped back to just being an archery dad.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Honestly, I think I’m okay with just being me – I can’t think of any character that I would want to be.

Describe yourself in five words.
Always working to help students.

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