September 2019

In This Issue:

A Message from DPI: Back to School 2019
A Message from the WSCA Board
Feature Article: BreakoutEDU for counselors
Legislative Update – 2019-2020 Legislative Session
2019-2020 Conference: Preconference Sessions & Call for Presenters
WSCPAR Updates
College Goal Wisconsin: FAFSA Webinar & FAFSA Completion Events
ASCA  Helpful Tips – 2019-2020 ASCA Model Training Dates Released 
Fall Summit: Early Bird Registration Discount until 9/27/2019
WSCA Volunteers Needed

A Message from DPI


Back to School 2019

Gregg Curtis, DPI School Counseling Consultant

I bet I’m not the only one who’s shaking my head in disbelief and wondering, “Where in the heck did summer go?!” It seems like just yesterday we were all dancing around super-happy at finally making up all of last year’s snow days! Now it’s time to go back?! That doesn’t hardly seem fair! Fun is the best thing ever! And there’s more fun to be had!!

But the reality is…no matter how much you love fun or how long you are in education…the dreaded “Back to School” sales start earlier and earlier; and the sun starts rising later and later, while also setting earlier and earlier. Clearly signaling our transition from summer to fall.

Even as self-care-conscious counselors, making our minds and bodies shift back into “school mode” can be a challenge. So, in the glass-half-full spirit that I subscribe to, here are my “Top Ten Reasons to be Excited About The 2019-2020 School Year:”

  • June 2020 is only nine months and one week away! Start making your to-do list for next summer, and I guarantee you will be able to cross of at least 3 by this time next year!


  • The 2019-20 WSCA Conference is only five and ½ months away! “Connections” is this year’s theme, so start connecting the dots and get your sectional proposals and professional development budgets submitted!


  • While “Orange is the New Black,” Xello is the new Career Cruising! The new and improved student career development tool will be ready for you and your students to use as you journey together toward college and career readiness for ALL students! Watch your CESAs for Xello and ACP trainings this year!


  • Millions of dollars in funding to help students and schools address barriers to their success has been awarded through ESSA Title IVa, AODA grants, AWARE grants, and Youth Mental Health grants. Finding effective, sustainable ways to help students in need is a vital piece of achieving college and career readiness for all.


  • WSCA is stronger than ever. Led by executive director, Stacy Eslick, this year’s governing board and directors of operations are a group of some of the most intelligent, dedicated, and optimistic professionals I’ve ever seen.


  • Spring Break is roughly ONLY six months away. Better beat the rush and make your cruise or travel reservations now.


  • The SEL bus is loaded and ready to hit the road. After coordinating twenty Moving SEL Forward: Day 1 trainings all over the state, the Wisconsin Safe and Healthy Schools Center (WISH Center) has already scheduled a number of Moving SEL Forward: Day 2 trainings for this school year. (see A few more Day 1 trainings will also be scheduled at 3-4 locations around the state for those schools/districts who have yet to begin their SEL journeys.


  • There is a new memorandum of understanding in place between DPI and each CESA to continue supporting your implementation of Academic and Career Planning. Your CESA will likely be asking for some information from you regarding your training needs for the 2019-20 school year. This is your chance to personalize your own professional development, so fire away!! ACP is not, and never has been, ONLY the school counselor’s job!


  • Both WSCA and DPI are focusing on ‘equity’ this year. If you haven’t heard any of the buzz around the importance of equity in education and/or the necessity of addressing individual and institutional inequities, you will. A good, short, easy read to start you on this journey is “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates” by Wes Moore. It is available all over the place, including through Amazon ( or The WSCA Board of Directors read this over the summer, and it generated considerable discussion at the Leadership Development Institute this summer. Read. Learn. Enjoy.


  • Labor Day was last weekend!! I hope everyone celebrates the coming of a new exciting school year and puts a big red bow on a restful, recharging, and glorious summer!

Please accept my best for a wonderful year!


A Message from the WSCA Board of Directors

I am so happy to have been elected to serve! I am proud to be working in an industry filled with so many compassionate, talented, and innovative individuals working to make a difference. Serving the children and families of my community is my passion, and it feels good to be part of an even bigger community outside of my own that is dedicated to the same cause.

I have had the pleasure of working at Rufus King International High School in Milwaukee, WI for the past two years. At Rufus King I work with 9th through 12 graders helping them to navigate one of the most memorable and transitional periods of their young lives. I believe that the empowerment of our students is essential to our roles as school counselors. Students do not always tell us about the silent battles that they may be fighting within themselves, or about the struggles that they may be facing at home, which is why it is imperative that students feel seen, heard, and valued while in our presence. In my work I often times reflect back on the memories of the adults who helped and supported me when I was a high school student at Riverside University High School. Everyday I try my best to provide students with the same amount of encouragement and love that I felt at a time when I sorely needed it.

Riverside was and still is Rufus King’s rival high school and one of my favorite things to do during the beginning of the school year is to tell all of the new freshmen students, who are already beaming with Rufus King General pride, that as a Riverside graduate, I am still a Riverside Tiger at heart. Sure, I get a lot of “boos” and I’ve been called a “river rat” quite a few times (in jest of course), but the big, bright smiles on their faces and the roar of their laughter are two of the very best perks of the job.

Being a WSCA member has been another perk of the job. Since graduate school I have benefitted from WSCA’s tireless efforts to provide counselors across Wisconsin with the necessary tools to enhance our practice, adding tools to our respective counselor “toolboxes”. I appreciate how committed WSCA members are to advocating for what is right and necessary for the continued growth and success of our students and our profession, and I am honored to have been afforded the opportunity to be a part of the team. I sincerely look forward to working with everyone!

Best Regards,

Megan Williams


BreakoutEDU for Counselors

By Stacy Eslick

Stacy is the WSCA Executive Director and  previously worked as a school counselor for over 15 years.

Have you ever been to the WSCA conference and had a presentation really reasonate with your practice?  Back in 2008 when the The Wisconsin Comprehensive School Counseling Model was released I will never forget having the opportunity to hear Tom Jackson, author of the Activities that Teach series at the WSCA annual conference in Stevens Point.  During my Master’s program at UW Platteville we had been told by our professors many times to  not just do activities but to make sure that students processed what happened to learn. I don’t recall being given examples or taught how to do this.  In the early 2000’s experiential and adventure based learning were trending so there was no shortage of fun and engaging activities to do with students. What I most appreciated about Tom Jackson was his emphasis on the activity reflection (including many discussion points and questions to help facilitate the learning).  As counselors spent countless hours on the WCSCM scope and sequence of our core curriculum, I kept going back to Tom Jackson’s presentation on what did I want my students to learn from the lessons and how did we make sure they were engaging yet teaching skills?  

As language has evolved in education over the past decade, experiential learning is now closely associated with real world experiences and work based learning.  The Madison Metropolitan School District defines Experiential Learning as “activities that create awareness, exploration, preparation and training through relevant, real-life experiences.  Students gain insight into what skills are needed, how knowledge learned in school is put into action in the workplace, and develops a student’s understanding of many post secondary and career options and pathways in a particular field”. Educators and business recognize the importance of experiential learning so how do we continue to have these types of activities in the classroom setting? 

Another recent shift has been in the use of evidence based curriculum for social/emotional learning.  With busy schedules it has been helpful to have ready to use materials available to teach classroom lessons.  My experience with some of the curriculum I was required to use was that it was not as engaging and experiential as I would like.  How do you manage the expectation of using a standardized curriculum while making sure students have the opportunity to authentically practice the skills you are teaching?  In my quest to find the answer to this pressing question I discovered BreakoutEDU.  

BreakoutEDU founder, James Saunders, used escape rooms as a concept to create fun, interactive and engaging classroom activities.  My students were tired of the turn and talks, role plays and worksheets that were part of the curriculum. Breakout EDU is an immersive, game-based learning platform that consist of a physical and/or digital puzzle elements that must be solved in a set amount of time. Players of all ages are challenged to Breakout using critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. As you can see the skills practiced in BreakoutEDU are aligned to ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors, SEL standards, and the ever so elusive “soft skills” that employers seek. 

Below you will find a brief summary of BreakoutEDU.  Things to consider are what this may look like in your school and the time, energy and resources needed to implement these activities.  





I presented on BreakoutEDU at the WSCA conference a few years ago and my session participants were able to break out!  The debrief questions I used with attendees:

  • How did your group work well together? 
  • How do you think your group could have been more effective?
  • What puzzles did you find the most difficult? 
  • How did you utilize each individual’s strengths? How did you find out who had what strength?
  • How did you contribute to your team? 
  • What would you do differently next time? 
  • Do you feel like your ideas were heard?
  • How can a game like this be used in your classroom?
  • Where can Breakout EDU games fit in the curriculum?
  • What are some ways games can be designed for larger groups? 



What was really interesting when I introduced Breakout boxes to my students, the classes that did a fantastic job of being “good students” by listening, raising their hands to answer questions, etc during my regular lessons tended to struggle with the BreakoutEDU activities because they had to use skills not typical in classroom lessons. Students have minimal directions on how to solve the problem and have to work as a team to find clues to unlock the puzzle.  They really wanted the structure that was provided with my usual curriculum. My classes that tended to struggle more with the standard curriculum really flourished with the BreakoutEDU. They were given permission in the BreakoutEDU lesson to talk, brainstorm and problem solve together. My students were actively demonstrating the skills I had been teaching them: listening with attention, solving problems, being assertive, managing frustration, taking others’ perspectives, and disagreeing respectfully.  Going back to Tom Jackson, the debrief and reflection were impactful for my students. They were able to identify areas they struggled as well as successes. Giving students the opportunity to authentically apply the skills (ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors) they were learning was powerful for all of us.  

Since I started using BreakoutEDU there have been many changes due to the rapid increase in educators being excited to use this with students.  There is  free access to some of the games on the BreakoutEDU website (not as many as in the past).   I would recommend googling BreakoutEDU games, you will find  hundreds of free resoucres that educators share on blogs, websites, etc. (including how to create your own low cost Breakout box).  BreakoutEDU does not require a physical box with locks, there are digital games available for free. You can also find many “escape room” lessons on Teacher Pay Teachers that have a similar structure as BreakoutEDU games.  

A few lessons I learned….

  • Preparing a BreakoutEDU lesson takes a lot of time (even with all the materials ready to be printed).  I would strongly recommend laminating lesson materials so that they can be used again to save on preparation time.  If you are using a physical box, it takes time to set up the room before the Breakout activity because you don’t want to do this when students are in the room.   I had 11 classrooms with lessons back to back so preplanning the activity set up was important as I moved from room to room. 
  • Less boxes and locks are a good thing.  Students want to touch and play with the box and locks because they are so curious about what is inside!   Locks jam and when using locks that reset it is amazing how students are able to innocently get the lock stuck on the box (which is a real bummer when you can’t unlock the box at the end!).  
  • BreakoutEDU games are great for small groups!
  • Teachers like Breakout activities.  Liven up a professional development day with interactive activities.
  • Collaborate with your school librarian or technology teacher to try out a breakoutEDU or an escape room type lesson.  Many of them know about BreakoutEDU and are looking for schools staff to partner with.  

Some resources to get started…

I look forward to hearing about how you have have incorporated Breakout games into your counseling program!