By the time she was in eighth grade, Kara Hecker (pictured on left) had identified her dream job: school counseling. The daughter of Vancouver teachers and graduate of Columbia River High School went on to fulfill that goal, joining Vancouver Public Schools in 2004.

Recently, Hecker was named a finalist for the Washington School Counselor of the Year. The recognition from the Washington School Counselor Association honors professionals in the field who maintain high-quality, comprehensive school counseling programs. Hecker was honored at the annual Washington School Counselor Association conference along with fellow finalist Melissa Scott (far right), Central Valley School District, and School Counselor of the Year Nita Hill, Puyallup School District.

At Hudson’s Bay High School, where she’s been assigned since 2011, Hecker works with students and collaborates with staff members to address social and emotional growth, provide academic and graduation support and teach college and career readiness. She is the school’s counselor for the Advancement Via Individual Determination program that helps students prepare for a successful college experience.

Hecker also is a founding member of Vancouver Public Schools’ counselor leadership committee and participates in many professional development opportunities.

Outside of the district, Hecker spent 14 years in City University’s master’s degree program in school counseling. She served as a field supervisor, professor and associate program director/assistant professor for the university’s Vancouver campus. Her former graduate students include four of Bay’s current counselors.

Her students energize her work, said Hecker. “I love just being able to be a positive person in their life they can come to in order to process, problem solve, be listened to, celebrate with, laugh with and be seen through all the ups and downs of high school life. I have the best job in the world, and my Bay students really are ‘my kids.’”