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Innovative Educator: West Ada counselor creates soothing space at school

Abby Stringer says her refreshed office allows students to share feelings or just get away from it all

MERIDIAN, Idaho — Editor's note: This content is sponsored by CapEd Credit Union

Many kids face a lot of stress, anxiety, adversity, and maybe even trauma. So, this week's Innovative Educator created a safe and comfortable place where students can share their feelings or just relax and unwind.

When school counselor Abby Stringer started working this school year at Ustick Elementary in Meridian, she knew her office needed a change, a refresh — big time.

"It was a conference table, some chairs, just plain Jane," Stringer said. "It wasn't warm. It wasn't that feeling that you wanted to stay."

So, with a CapEd Foundation grant of $790.10, she got to work creating that warmth. Now, soothing tapestries drape the walls, and a comfy couch and chairs, plump pillows, boxes of books, tons of toys and relaxing lighting fill the room.

"I know that in counseling, in therapy you need to feel safe, you need to feel comfortable, and I need to give the kids that," Stringer said.

It worked right away.

"The first time that the kids came in after it had changed one of the kids said, yeah, this is how it's supposed to be," Stringer said. "This is how it should be. So I knew it was right."

Stringer said her kindergarten through fifth-grade students can come here to share their feelings about what's going on at school or at home, work through things, or just get away from it all while playing with the toys, reading a book or doing some coloring.

"You see their little bodies soften. You see them relax. You see some smiles," Stringer said.

She said it is definitely more welcoming, and not only to the students.

"Even the staff comes in here and hangs out a little bit more," Stringer said. "I've had to kick some staff out. So, I know that's good then."

Stringer works with the kids one-on-one, in groups and in class, where she reads books with a message regularly.

"We work on friendship stuff, we work on pro-social stuff, we work on bullying, we work on feelings," Stringer said. "We work on anything they face they can come talk to me about."

In a safe, comfortable place created with compassion for kids dealing with a lot.

"They're special kids," Stringer said. "They show up every day with grit and resiliency. They're special, special kids. I love this job. I come here every day, and if I make a difference in one kid's life, then I know I'm doing a great job."

Educators, for information on submitting an application for a classroom grant through the Idaho CapEd Foundation, visit www.capedfoundation.org..
If you would like to nominate an Innovative Educator, send us an email to innovativeeducator@ktvb.com.

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