At Almond Tree Middle School, Marisela Pruneda isn’t just the academic counselor, she also helps and supports students with social emotions; she said the one piece of advice she likes to give to students is that it’s never too late and it’s very important to utilize all of the resources available.
As an academic counselor, she runs student reports and checks GPAs to see who is at risk of not graduating. She holds parent/student meetings for academic intervention and provides College & Career Awareness.
She also provides students with Academic Intervention support during breaks, lunch, and after school and creates SEL daily lessons for the entire student body using programs such as Second Step and Nearpod. Additionally, Pruneda helps with Master scheduling and student placement and creates and implements the Credit Recovery Program for At-Risk Students.
During the pandemic since students were taking online classes, she saw a significant difference in some students. For most of the students who remained on remote learning, they struggled with completing assignments and attending class regularly.
“The school closure due to the pandemic has had a great impact on students’ academics. Most of our students — while at home — struggled to log into Zoom, turn in assignments, and didn’t have an adequate space to be able to concentrate on their class/lesson for the day,” said Pruneda.
Pruneda said it makes her happy to know that she is helping to support students with their needs, whether it be academics or social-emotional. There’s a lot of work to do and not enough time in the day to accomplish everything at once.
“Every year we have that one student that finally, after several parent/student meetings, has an epiphany and understands the importance of being academically successful. I had that experience just recently with an eighth-grade student who struggled both academically and socially,” said Pruneda. “After many meetings with teachers, parents, and the student, he managed to pull through and turned in all of his assignments. Now he currently has a B average in all of his classes. When I reviewed his current standing with him he was amazed and had the biggest smile on his face and realized all of his hard work paid off.”
Pruneda said that this pandemic has really affected students’ attendance by instilling fear.
“Parent(s), guardians, and students are afraid to return to in-person instruction for fear of being exposed to and catching COVID,” said Pruneda.
When a student is absent due to COVID-related reasons, those absences are notated in the system using a specific code. Students were either given a packet of assignments to complete while at home if they did not have access to the internet, or they’d attend class online.
If a student needed to be absent because of COVID, the process of returning to school was that the student needed to be quarantined for 10 days, after the quarantine the student was to produce a negative COVID test from their physician’s office.
Pruneda said if the student was ill due to COVID, this affected their grades because they were not well enough to attend class remotely and complete their work.
“Many people lost loved ones due to COVID and or struggling from social isolation from the school closure,” said Pruneda. “It’s a reminder to them of the services available at ATMS because not many middle schools have the capability to have school social workers, academic counselors, and academic behavior intervention specialists.”