POMEROY — Chelsa Dilcher introduced herself as “not just a school counselor” during a book signing at the Pomeroy Library on Friday. Her appearance drew a large crowd of well-wishers anxious to congratulate the former Meigs County resident on her first book, “Colors in Me.”
She shared every year it seems like the kids are experiencing more and more trauma, and said the challenges for them are getting harder, requiring school counselors to become very involved with their student’s mental health.
“I enjoy working with the kids,” Dilcher said. “I have been involved in all aspects of mental health, but kids are my passion.”
Her life and career have taken her from graduation at Southern Local High School, to college in West Virginia, and a summer job at Glacier Park National Park.
It was there she met her husband, Luke Buehner, and soon transferred to the University of Great Falls Montana where she graduated with an undergraduate degree. She worked for a time in mental health before receiving her graduate degree at Montana State University Northern in 2013
Montana has been Dilcher’s home since 2006, and today she lives on a “mini-farm” with her husband, daughter Jordynn, horses, and a variety of other animals.
She said she began her career working in mental health in the schools as a behavior specialist.
She shared that the trauma piece of counseling is where her heart lies. As a licensed therapist, she now works as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in grades K-6 at an elementary school in Great Falls, Montana.
“I get them when they are young, I get to see them grow, and the progress they make,” Dilcher said. “It is challenging but rewarding. I want to help them be successful… Social pressure follows the kids when they leave school, so if they can’t get away from it, it is always in their life, there is no escape.”
Working with her students, as well as her own experiences in education, led her to begin writing. She said the book is a mix of stories students have shared over the years and is fiction based in truth. “Colors in Me” is the story of the struggles that students and children face as told by a young boy named Austin.
“The book is about how we approach behavior. It isn’t about any one particular school. When I was writing the novel, I was picturing the elementary school in Portland, but the school itself is based on the one I teach at now in Montana, it was just the picture I had in my mind when I was writing.”
Dilcher said she plans to continue her journey as an author, and has the beginnings for several other books. She is currently working on a children’s book that is being illustrated by one of her students.
“Colors in Me” deals with grief, addition, abuse, neglect, and foster care, and she said her hope is that people can read the book and realize that every interaction we have with someone has an impact.
“It is a great book for teachers and everyone who works with kids, everyone can relate to the book in some way, but it can be an emotional book to read,” Ditcher said. “As educators we need to remember that some students come to school for love and some for education, and that every child deserves love and kindness no matter the circumstances. Students remember how we make them feel, not what we teach them.”
During her time as a student, Dilcher said she had wonderful learning experience and good relationships with many of her teachers, especially in middle school.
“Middle school teachers had the greatest impact on me. During that time, I had a tragedy in my life, and they were there to support me and help me through it. The impact that my middle school teachers left on me will forever be with me.
“For me, it’s not about what I teach them, it’s what I leave with them. Words make a difference; we need to be kind.”
Readers are invited to visit her website, notjustaschoolcounselor.com, to read her blog posts and to order “Colors in Me”. The book can also be found on Amazon.
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Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.