Graduates students at Northwest Missouri State University preparing for careers as school counselors now have access to hundreds of lesson plans of the sort that take most educators years of hard-won classroom experience to create.
Veteran counselor Connie Miller, who earned degrees at Northwest in 1970 and 1985, recently donated approximately 130 instructional units, each consisting of about a week's worth daily lessons, to the university's Department of Behavioral Sciences.
Now retired after a long career in elementary education, Miller spent about 20 years as a grade school counselor in a number of northwest Missouri school districts. She and her husband, Kent, who also taught, now live in Excelsior Springs.
In addition to teaching and counseling, Connie Miller also founded "Bright Ideas," which marketed lesson plans and other classroom materials to other educators.
Taken together, the curriculum guides offer a comprehensive blueprint on how to teach elementary-level "life skills" courses focusing on self-esteem, anger management and skills designed to help children cope with grief, family conflicts, bullying, stress and depression.
The object of such lessons, Miller said, is to remove emotional and psychological obstacles that sometimes prevent students from succeeding academically.
Counselors, she said "do what we do so that kids can learn. We want to create an environment that doesn't interfere with learning."
Actually, Miller has made her Bright Ideas curriculum available to graduate counseling students at Northwest for some time. But up until now, they have only been able to view the materials and take notes.
Her most recent donation of dozens of original notebooks, however, comes with permission for Northwest to copy the lesson plans and sell them at cost.
At full retail, Miller said, the complete set of Bright Ideas notebooks would go for around $1,300. But now students leaving Northwest with freshly minted counseling degrees can do so with a career's worth of proven lesson plans at a fraction of the regular price.
Associate Professor Shelly Hiatt said Miller's generosity means that elementary counselors from Northwest will now be able to hit the ground running once hired by a school district rather than reinventing materials and techniques already proven effective in the classroom.
"It can be very difficult for our students to design something like this from the ground up," she said.
"This donation is an amazing gift of resources for our facility, our students and the elementary students they will work with now and in the future," Hiatt said. "The value of these materials and the value of the years of work dedicated to their creation are immeasurable."