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Solution Seeker Spotlight: Carol Sivils, Lacey Elementary

Each month we feature staff members dedicated to being Solution Seekers in their schools.   

Carol and a student laugh in the school hallwayCarol Sivils, school counselor at Lacey Elementary, is a military child and spouse who understands the power of belonging firsthand. She loves seeing how her efforts to support students, families, and fellow educators have a positive ripple effect on her community. 

Tell us about yourself.  

I am the school counselor at Lacey Elementary, and this is my 9th year with NTPS.  

When people ask me where I am from, I tell them that my family originates out of Kansas because I have been a military child or military spouse for most of my life. When you grow up in the military and marry a military spouse, you never stay long enough in one place to call it home. When I was a first grader, I went to 5 different elementary schools. Teachers have always welcomed me into the classroom and made me feel like I belonged. To a military brat who constantly moves around, the feeling of belonging is so important. In 5th grade, I had a teacher named Mrs. Fine. I loved the sound the chalk made when she rolled it in her hands and hit her rings. Mrs. Fine had such a lasting impact on me, and I dreamed of becoming a teacher like her, which I did in 2001.  

I started my teaching career in Lawton, Oklahoma, at Crosby Park Elementary. Crosby Park was such an amazing and unique place to begin teaching. The school building was modeled after the open school concept, meaning we taught without walls between classrooms. We had tall bookshelves between classes, two rolling cabinets, and a short shelf in the hallway. If anyone knows me, I have a strong voice. I quickly learned the power of voice control with students. While at Crosby Park, I taught 3rd, 3rd/4th split, and 6th grades. Our district moved to the middle school concept, so I had the privilege to move to Eisenhower Middle School, where I taught 6th-grade math and science. While working as a middle school teacher, I earned my Master of Science degree in School Counseling in 2010 from East Central University. I was lucky to spend so many great years teaching in Oklahoma while my husband served our country at Ft. Sill and around the world in Korea, Afghanistan, and Djibouti. When he returned home from his deployments, it was time for us to begin moving. We moved five summers in a row. I took two years to stay home with my children during those five years, but my calling to teach was still there. So during that time, I tutored students in California and El Paso, Texas. When we moved again, I went back to teaching and spent a year teaching 6th grade at Hollin Meadows Elementary, a math and science focus school in Alexandria, Virginia, near Washington D.C. With our next move, I spent a year as the school counselor at Westward Elementary in Killeen, Texas. Finally, our last move brought us here to Washington where I began working at Lacey Elementary. While at Lacey, I have been a special education resource teacher, a 4th-grade teacher, and am now the school counselor. 

Carol plays frisbee with a group of students on the fieldWhat do you like best about your job?  

I love so many things about my job, but the thing I love the most and take immense pride in is my ripple effect. My job as a teacher and now a school counselor gives me a unique opportunity to have a lasting impact on the lives of students, families, and fellow educators in a positive way. I know the impact a teacher and counselor can have on a student because of their profound impact on me.   

As I enter my 20th year in education, I get the privilege of seeing and hearing about the ripple effect I have had as an educator. Parents of my former students still reach out to me, ask me to check in, and continue encouraging their children. Students proudly send me pictures of themselves in their new careers, graduating from college, and share their families with me. Some of my former students are now parents (hard to believe) and are sharing with me the things I have taught them that they are now teaching their children. Student teachers I have mentored share with me how they are using the skills I taught them with students in their own classrooms. I take immense pride in knowing that my ripple effect is expanding and reaching other people in positive ways. 

Why is being a Solution Seeker important to you?  

Being a solution seeker is important because it is empowering. In life, we face many problems, and it is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of them. By seeking solutions, I am taking control of the situation, growing personally and professionally, and making positive changes for myself, my students, and my peers.   

Carol coloring at a table with a studentCan you share a story where you experienced problem-solving in action?  

A parent came to me with concerns about her son. After listening to the parent discuss her son's emotional problems and struggles at school, I suggested he join my Bounce Back group. The parent gave permission for her son to be part of my group, but after the first day, she reached out again because her son was unsure if this group was a good fit for him. I asked her to give the group a chance and allow me to work with her student. The parent agreed to let her student stay in my group for a couple of weeks and then check back in with me. When she checked back in, she thanked me for encouraging her to keep him in the group. She said her son had his smile back and could see the difference the group was making for him at school and home.