IT’S A CALL: Reyes is rising through the ranks

Chelsea Reyes knew early on that she wanted to help people. Initially tending toward child psychology, she decided on school counseling.

This has led to her new position as Executive Director of Guidance, Counseling and Wellness at Ector County ISD.

She replaces Nancy Vanley Compton, who retired.

A native of Odessa, Reyes graduated from Odessa High School, Odessa College and the University of Texas Permian Basin.

Reyes and her husband Brandon have three children. She stayed in her hometown because her family is here and family is her number one priority.

Reyes earned her bachelor’s degree in English Language Arts with a minor in history and a master’s degree in Counseling. Reyes has teaching qualifications in early childhood through fourth grade and four through eight, a certification in English as a second language, her school counseling in early childhood through grade 12, and teaching leadership in early childhood through grade 12.

As a student, she was a substitute teacher.

“I also love to learn and always want to learn more so I can help others. If I don’t know what’s going on, it’s hard for me to help. … I always believe in a holistic program. I think if I can’t help I know who to refer her to. As a school counselor, that was the most important thing I’ve ever done,” Reyes said.

This is Reyes’ 14th year at ECISD. Starting out as a third grade teacher, she knew she always wanted to be a school counselor.

“I never thought I would enjoy teaching as much as I do. I really loved it, but I knew that to become a school counselor, I also had to have at least two years of teaching experience. … I taught third grade at ECISD for four years,” Reyes said.

She then became a high school counselor for seven years and loved it too. In that role, Reyes watched three groups of her third graders graduate and “it was wonderful.”

Reyes then spent a year as an assistant principal at Nimitz Middle School, where she was able to use her counseling skills in an administrative role.

As a teenager, middle school—or junior high, back then—was an eye-opener for her.

“I realized that people around me really needed help with their mental health. I think it was important for them to have accessible and accessible resources; Being approachable to people, having access to them. I know people have always felt comfortable…talking to me about things like that. And that I want to keep it confidential. And so I just knew I wanted to do it. At the time, I didn’t know it was called counseling. I wanted to be a child psychologist. But school counselors, to me, are not designed for that. I knew I wanted to be there. And that’s what I wanted to do — help kids,” Reyes said.

She added that it didn’t feel like a burden because Reyes always wanted to be helpful.

“Sometimes just listening and keeping it confidential helps. … If they needed something serious, I knew from a young age that I had to help them report it. How can I help you tell someone else? … I knew as a kid I was limited in what I could do to help, but I could at least talk to them and help them find the right person to help them…” Reyes said.

Reyes, the eldest of three siblings, said her intuition could be natural.

There are plans to visit campus this year, which has been complicated by COVID.

“I really want to be on campus. I want to see the kids go to class with the caregivers… I’m really looking forward to that this year…” Reyes said.

Reyes previously served as Director of Guidance and Advice. The director is now Krista Zeigler.

There are more than 80 in the consulting field. The department also includes nursing and the community outreach center.

Reyes noted that the Community Outreach Center has social workers. They help people who need help with housing, resources and there is a food pantry and clothes like uniforms.

“They make house calls when the children are not in school and make sure they are okay. I think that’s so important for our kids,” Reyes said.

She added that the nursing department does wonderful things, as does vaccination clinics and helping students and parents stay healthy.

Reyes said the district has begun its first school counselor journey.

“We partnered with the Education Foundation and they helped us get grants from the Abell-Hanger Foundation in Midland to fund part of it. We’ve also received some ESSER funding to help with that,” Reyes said.

“We have partnered with Angelo State. We will have six teachers going through the program. We continue to write scholarships with our scholarship holder Dr. (Susan) Lara and hope we can bring on some additional cohorts. This is one of our big exciting things, among many. Our big goal is to fill all of our positions with consultants,” said Reyes.

If they’re local, they’re more likely to stay.

She said some advisers have retired and some have moved home, which she understands because family is important.

Reyes said another addition to the department is the post-secondary department with Elizabeth Gray.

“It’s also a wonderful addition to our department because we have our college and career counselors in the high schools. I think it will be really beneficial for our students if it helps them get scholarships and other financial aid opportunities and of course admissions and college because we have more resources to help them get there.” said Reyes.

She added that the University of Texas Permian Basin and OC have also been very supportive.

“I think counseling is a calling, so if you have it, you’re still going to want to be here because it’s not going to be easy. It’s tough,” Reyes said.

Alicia Syverson, Assistant Superintendent of Student and School Support, said Reyes is a great addition to her leadership team.

“She brings a willingness to think outside the box to solve problems. Just last year, Chelsea pursued a grant opportunity to impact our district CCMR (College, Career and Military Readiness) rate, which is one of our three board goals. New learning will be implemented this year. I’ve never heard Chelsea say, ‘Well, we haven’t done it that way in the past.’ She is solution-oriented and has a unique ability to balance a sense of calm with urgency. We’re grateful to have her on the team,” Syverson said.

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