What does a middle school counselor do—especially when students are learning remotely? The better question is: What doesn’t a counselor do?
Truman Middle School Counselor Tristan Allen is running the moment he begins work each morning. Having students learning remotely has only increased the challenge of connecting with students and ensuring they have all the support they need to be successful. (Middle school students began in-person learning in cohorts March 4.)
"It is hard to explain just how much impact Mr. Allen has on Truman," said Principal Andre Stout. "He's involved with every dance, fundraiser, club and community project, and he leads our ASB and school clubs. His advocacy and care for students and families is amazing."
Allen’s commitment and care for students recently earned him recognition by the Association of Washington Student Leaders (AWSL) as the 2020 Washington State Middle Level Advisor of the Year.
"At Truman, we say ASB stands for 'All Students Belong,'" Allen said. "I try to live that mantra every day. But this award is not about one person; it's our school culture that values student leadership and voice. This is Truman's award, not mine."
Over the past few years, Mr. Allen has dramatically expanded clubs at Truman. If there is something that interests his students, he will find a way to make it happen. And with his support, Truman students volunteer and lead projects to give back to the community, such as food and clothing drives.
“Mr. Allen is the most caring and attentive advisor there is,” said Marena Baker, Truman eighth grade student. “He is always asking everyone's opinions and ideas to help improve the school. He has the perfect in between of being involved and giving us a chance to voice our ideas.”
During the pandemic, he has continued to stay engaged and connected with students. Truman eighth grade student Jayce Hartman recalls Allen’s continued support and assistance.
“I get to work on lots of videos for the school that get seen by the whole school, which can be kind of nerve-wracking at times,” Hartman said. “Mr. Allen is always willing to watch the videos and give me criticism in a way that is always positive. He is very supportive, and I get the feeling that he wants me to succeed in life more than any teacher I've ever had.”
Each Friday, Allen hits the road to make home visits and drop off student awards. He also meets virtually with students and creates a space for them to share and get support. And he is a core member of the Truman Equity Engagement Team—a group focused on keeping students active and involved in school during this challenging year.
This past year Allen also worked with the Washington Student Achievement Council to improve and streamline the College Bound Scholarship application process, ensuring more students across Washington can access scholarships.
Additionally, Allen's leadership and advocacy for student voice have influenced Truman's approach to instruction. The school's SCDM (school-centered decision-making) team now has two student representatives.
“He is always thinking of new ways to make student voice a priority,” said Hartman.
As Truman welcomed students for in-person learning, Allen once again adapted.
"When routines change, student's needs change," Allen said. "My job is to listen to students and keep finding ways to support them – whatever it takes."
About Tacoma Schools
Tacoma Public Schools is the only district designated an Innovation Zone by Washington State. A leader in implementing innovative schools and programs to meet the diverse needs of every student, every day, TPS serves approximately 30,000 students from preschool to grade 12 and at nearly 5000 employees is one of the largest employers in Tacoma. Learn more...