An Interview With Victoria Guzman, Wellness Director KnILE Center, Richmond, Texas
May 12, 2021
My name is Victoria Guzman, I am a licensed professional counselor and the school clinician at Knile Prep Academy (*pronounced like Nile). I work closely with staff, students, and families to help provide academic, as well as social, and emotional support for students to feel confident in learning.
How did you find The Character Effect™?
As a counselor, I like to work with students using positive psychology and was looking for a social-emotional curriculum we could implement at our private school. We have a boutique-style school and students are provided support to help them as a whole (academics/mental health/social/emotional). Our philosophy is geared towards looking at the individual first, academics come when the student feels confident.
What challenges were you facing?
We were dealing with a lot of students struggling to find what they excel at, as these students are not in a typical school. They often have learning differences, developmental differences, and cognitive differences. Many have not felt they “fit in” in a typical school and lack the confidence to enjoy learning. We were hoping to find a school curriculum to help foster confidence and resilience
How has The Character Effect™ had an impact on your schools?
The Character Effect has given us an opportunity to switch our language and approach with the students. This curriculum has granted us the opportunity to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to helping students.
How have the character strengths been implemented at the school and how have they impacted the school?
The teachers have each implemented the character strengths in different ways in each classroom. Some have created visual boards and have students place their initials on strengths they have discovered in themselves. Some have started discussion circles exploring strengths and learning to hear about others, and some have incorporated it into their daily lessons, including journal writing, presentations, etc.
How has mindfulness been implemented? How has that helped the teachers? The students?
Mindfulness has been implemented throughout the school using mindful breaks and ways to start the students’ days. The teachers have participated during our specialist-led groups, and been able to see how mindfulness affects them and how they can lead by example in their classrooms.
Have we done any parent engagement? If so, how has that helped?
We have done a Bingo Night through zoom, it was amazing and the families that attended absolutely loved it. The kids still brag about winning gift cards for being able to have so many strengths on their boards. We have a Freeze Dance Party planned in May for the younger students which should be fun! Family engagement has been a little challenging this year in general due to COVID protocols and restrictions but our team has been amazing at hosting the virtual event.
There is a student in Ms. Becky’s classroom. He has grown a great deal in self-control both when it has come to academics, but especially in social situations. He can stop, wait, and manage his emotions. Academically, he used to get frustrated with himself. He would get overwhelmed and quit. Now he has been able to recognize that and stops, asks for help, receives it, and moves on. I think that having that change in language with the teachers and students has created an atmosphere where the kids can express themselves when they’re not okay and need help. The Character Effect™ has increased their awareness which has been able to create change in their ways of approaching situations.