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Columbia, Heritage welcome Thompson as counselor

MADISON – As counselor, Shanaya Thompson considers herself safe haven for students and their families at Columbia and Heritage elementary schools.

She was serving as a counselor in North Georgia when her husband accepted a job offer in Huntsville. Immediately, she started to look for a school district that best suited her children’s needs and her passion for counseling.

“I was blessed to find that Columbia and Heritage elementary were looking. Seeing all the hard work and dedication among students, staff and community, I knew … I wanted to take part,” Thompson said.

Thompson earned bachelor and master’s degrees Liberty University. With Network of International Christian Schools, she worked at International Community School in Singapore. Back home, she served as elementary school counselor at Ringgold Elementary School in Georgia.

In Madison, Thompson’s primary objective is to facilitate Social, Emotional Learning for SEL in classrooms. “Having an additional counselor in the building allows more opportunities to reach students with this very important education,” she said. To augment individual counseling, she will use small groups to discuss topics, like anger management, anxiety and social skills.

As a counselor, Thompson is an advocate for wellbeing of students, along with teachers, parents and the community. Students realize that Thompson doesn’t judge or discipline. She “provides a place (to) openly discuss choices, concerns and curiosities. I’m … a lovingly assertive mentor.”

One student in Singapore was unforgettable. The shy eighth-grader was extremely bright, kind and charismatic yet lacked self-confidence. The girl was convinced that she had no right to receive love.

Thompson subtly validated the child, and the girl’s self-esteem slowly grew. Thompson realized one person can make an impact, and the girl inspired her to pursue motivational speaking.

Her husband Aaron works as a mechanical engineer at Lockheed Martin. Their son Hayden Branam, 16, is a sophomore at James Clemens High School. Daughters Kayla Thompson, 12, is an eighth-grader at Liberty Middle School and Audrey, 8, is a third-grader at Heritage.

Shanaya enjoys reading inspirational books. Travel aficionados, the Thompsons have visited Singapore, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Shanaya also pursues motivational speaking to adolescents.

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