Q&A with Award-Winning Counselor Ms Chae
Each year, the College Board Counselor Recognition Program honors the innovative middle and high school counselors who go the extra mile to expand opportunity for students—and who are seeing results.
We’re incredibly proud that Sue Chae, the Counseling Department Chair and 12th Grade Counselor at Rise Kohyang High School was recognized for the second year in a row! One of Bright Star’s founding staff, Ms. Chae has been making an impact on the lives of Bright Star students since 2003.
We chatted with the extraordinary Ms. Chae to hear more about what the recognition means to her and what makes her so successful.
For the second year in a row, you’ve been recognized by the College Board for being an “innovative counselor who goes the extra mile to expand opportunities for students and who are seeing results.” Congratulations! What does this honor mean to you?
Sue Chae: I believe educators, especially those who work behind the scenes such as counselors, are in general so undervalued. This recognition from the College Board is such a wonderful reminder that counselors are indeed appreciated.
What are some of the innovative ways you support Bright Star students to succeed?
Sue Chae: Something that I continue to do is work hard to show everyone -- especially students -- that I am someone who can be counted on. The most basic elaboration is that is if I say I’m going to do something, I will. This seems to be especially meaningful for so many of our students.
As you know, Bright Star prioritizes a low student-to-counselor ratio (120:1 in the 2019-2020 school year) so that all students have an advocate who can champion their success. What does it mean to you as a counselor to have a smaller caseload of students? What does it mean to students?
Sue Chae: One of the many reasons Rise Kohyang High School continues to be so successful is because each grade-level counselor has a smaller caseload. We wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with as many students and families if our caseloads were large. The more time we spend with our students and families, the stronger our connections become and the more willing everyone is to work even harder for the great cause -- the well-being and success of our students.
Our mission at Bright Star is to provide holistic, inclusive support for all students to achieve academic excellence and grow their unique talents so that they find joy and fulfillment in higher education, career, and life. What does that support look like, and how is it different from other school organizations?
Sue Chae: Service to others is such an integral part of our school’s vision and mission. It’s one of our most important common values. This core belief is what allows all of our students to go out and volunteer, join clubs, play sports, and basically just...try everything. Ultimately, everyone finds something they feel passionate about.
We provide every opportunity we can to students. This in turn leads to confidence, empowerment, and joy.
What’s a day-in-the-life of a Bright Star counselor look like? Can you walk us through your day?
Sue Chae: No one day is alike. Some days, there are a lot of crises that need to be managed. Other days, there seems to be nothing but meetings (e.g. IEP, SART, SSPT, faculty, etc.) to attend. There are days where there is one event counselor-hosted event after another. There are days where everything seems to go smoothly and where everyone is content. There are days when so many are overwhelmed. Even before the pandemic, there was no ‘typical’ day.
How do you ensure that your students overcome tough obstacles to succeed? What are your best practices that other counselors could learn from?
Sue Chae: The most important thing to do first is to show students that your “word is gold.” After that, your students and their families will be very open with you when they need support. Second, be supportive but also be tough. Push students to not give up so easily.
Your students have had some incredible successes -- being accepted at top universities including Stanford, UCLA, and USC among them. What are your most meaningful achievements for you personally?
Sue Chae: The Class of 2020 was our first graduating class at Rise Kohyang High School. To have students get into Stanford, USC, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and so many other prestigious universities and on the first try, no less, was astounding. Everyone at RKHS was reminded that with a committed staff and a school culture with a foundation of compassion, hard work, and dedication there are no limits.