CLEARMONT — Loyce Ellingrod always knew she wanted to work in education.
Raised on a ranch near the Nebraska-South Dakota border and coming from a family of teachers, Ellingrod was certain at a young age that she would be an instructor.
After several years as a high school family and consumer science teacher, Ellingrod took another step and received her master’s degree in school counseling after providing informal advice to students.
“Students would start coming to me and asking for help,” Ellingrod said. “I started thinking, ‘Well, I could be doing this.’ (I could) learn more about how to help students, not just with career and college stuff but also personal issues.”
Since then, Ellingrod has worked as a counselor in various locations for more than 20 years, including at Arvada-Clearmont K-12 school since 2006.
Ellingrod wears many hats at Sheridan County School District 3, the smallest district in the state. She is the only full-time counselor; teaches classes in the afternoons; prepares students for standardized tests; aids high-schoolers with college, career and scholarship planning; attends teacher meetings; helps set a yearly schedule; assists with individual lesson plans for students; and serves as advisor for student council and Students Against Destructive Decisions.
The variety keeps Ellingrod on her toes, but she prefers it that way.
“I’m my own team,” Ellingrod said. “… That’s why I love my job, because it’s never the same every day.”
Ellingrod’s peers have taken notice of her versatility and dedication. Ellingrod was named the 2020 Wyoming School Counselor of the Year earlier this month by the Wyoming School Counselor Association. She will travel to Washington, D.C., in February to be honored with counselors from all other states and is now eligible for the National School Counselor of the Year.
A WySCA board member nominated Ellingrod and a selection committee chose her based on five different categories.
Ellingrod received an email May 17 informing her of the award. She was surprised and excited but was in the middle of a busy day and didn’t have time to fully absorb the accolade.
“I didn’t even tell my husband until the next morning because I was kind of still processing it,” Ellingrod said.
Scharen Collingwood, WySCA president and counselor at Greybull Middle School, said Ellingrod excels at her position due to a focus on students.
“It’s really inspiring to interact with Loyce and to hear about all the great things she is doing in her program,” Collingwood said. “It definitely helps set the bar for everybody who interacts with her on a professional basis.”
Throughout her counseling career, Ellingrod has continued to teach. In Clearmont this school year, Ellingrod instructed four classes — college-level psychology, study skills and separate career courses for eighth-graders and high school seniors — every afternoon.
“I’m an educator,” Ellingrod said. “I love the classroom.”
SCSD3 superintendent Charles Auzqui came to the school the same year as Ellingrod and works closely with her on student planning and administrative tasks.
Auzqui called Ellingrod a great team member focused on educating children.
“She deals with all aspects of a K-12 building, so it takes a pretty diversified counselor to be able to work with kids of all ages,” Auzqui said. Indeed, Ellingrod deals with a variety of topics and talks with students ranging in age from 5 to 18, so she must be willing to listen.
She said the most important trait a school counselor needs to possess is openness and having a judgment-free attitude.
“You have to understand people and how they feel, which is hard sometimes,” Ellingrod said. “… You have to be very open and be able to communicate with whomever walks through the door.”
Collingwood shared similar sentiments.
“If you can’t build a relationship with your students, then it doesn’t matter how many great things you’re doing,” Collingwood said. “You’re not going to be reaching them, and I think that’s something Loyce does very well.”
Ellingrod said the best part of her job is seeing students graduate from high school after years of work.
“That, to me, is so rewarding, because it’s a culmination of so much work,” Ellingrod said. “… That’s one of the things that I enjoy, is being able to see them reach their goals and then go on and do more.”
She didn’t expect to receive the state award, but for the multifaceted Ellingrod, education has always been part of her DNA.