COLUMBIA – Anita Ellis knows she has big shoes to fill.
The new counselor at Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary School took over this fall for Stella Read, who retired from her full-time position in the spring and is now counseling just a few days a week.
“Stella had such a great program set up,” Ellis said. “I’m just trying to come in and hit the ground running and pick up where she left off.
"I want to build new relationships with kids that she had strong relationships with and continue the progress that she was seeing with those kids.”
Ellis met with Read several times in the spring and summer to prepare for the transition, review counseling materials and acquaint herself with the school, Read said.
“She is very dedicated and caring,” Read said. “She has the kids’ best interest in mind and wants them to be successful.”
Ellis comes from a part-time counseling job at Russell Boulevard Elementary School. She has a background in preschool education and received her counseling training a few years ago, she said.
“I’m a late start,” Ellis said. “After teaching preschool for a long time, I was ready for a change, and the opportunity was there. I’m really thrilled that I made the move because it’s been great.”
In addition to one full-time counselor, Alpha Hart Lewis has three part-time “traveling” counselors that come in throughout the week from other schools in the district: Lillian Hoell from Cedar Ridge Elementary School, Joel Harris from Benton Elementary School and Tricia Kosher from Two Mile Prairie Elementary School.
"Because we’re such a large school—we have over 600 students—that’s way too many kids for me to see on my own," Ellis said. "We also have a guidance curriculum so we’re actually teaching in the classrooms."
The guidance program has a set curriculum and is on a rotation schedule with art, music and PE, Ellis said. According to a previous Missourian report, the Comprehensive Guidance Program was introduced to Missouri schools in 1984 and later adopted by the American School Counselor Association.
Alpha Hart Lewis, the newest elementary school in the district, opened in January 2010 after Field Elementary School closed the previous December. Students from Field were moved to the new Alpha Hart Lewis building at 5801 Arbor Pointe Parkway and joined students from several other schools.
“We’re still working on that community aspect,” Ellis said. “We’re off to a great start this year, but it was difficult at first to blend the different schools coming in to one community.”
According to an opening day news release from Columbia Public Schools, Alpha Hart Lewis had the second-highest elementary school enrollment in the district this year with 672 students.
Despite the high enrollment numbers, Ellis hopes to get to know her students.
Working part-time in a school last year, she said it was difficult to really get to know the kids. Now she greets them at the door in the morning and tells them goodbye when they leave in the afternoon.
"I’m looking forward to watching them grow over the next few years and just being a part of that process," she said.