In a typical week, Adrienne Vaccarezza-Isla, a school counselor in Chicago, might help a dozen eighth graders apply to high schools across the city. Or try to convince a mother that her daughter, who had seen her get shot years earlier, should join a group for students dealing with trauma. Or work with sixth and seventh graders on time management.
Even though she is the only counselor for 650 children at Avondale-Logandale Elementary School, which serves preschool through eighth grade, Ms. Vaccarezza-Isla might also have to fill in as a substitute teacher — which has happened a half-dozen times this school year, before she went on strike last week with the Chicago Teachers Union.
“Kids are looking for me because they are having some sort of social emotional breakdown,” said Ms. Vaccarezza-Isla, 53, a 30-year veteran of Chicago Public Schools. “It hurts me that I can’t be there for them when they need me.”
The school walkouts that have spread across the country since early last year have rallied the public behind teachers. But high on the list of priorities in more recent protests, especially in large urban districts like Chicago, are demands for support staff focused on students’ well-being — counselors like Ms. Vaccarezza-Isla, nurses and psychologists.