Member Spotlight: Alli Bristow, Florence-Carlton Middle School
Share a little more about you: Where are you from? Hobbies/Interests?
I am originally from Rochester, New York, but also lived in Phoenix, Arizona for several years. I’ve been in Montana now for 15 years raising my two sons and working as a school counselor. Currently, my hobbies are attending my teenage sons’ football and soccer games. I also enjoy anything outdoors, such as fly fishing, paddle boarding, camping and exploring new places. I also love to teach Oula dance fitness part time to adults and teenagers.
What compelled you to be a school counselor or led you to where you are today? I think I had a pretty unconventional path to becoming a school counselor. After graduating with my Bachelors in Psychology, I honestly had no idea what my next step would be. On a whim, I decided to apply to teach adult education at an inner city school in Phoenix. During the interview, the principal asked if I would consider teaching special education on a provisional license instead, due to an extreme teacher shortage at that time. I did and ended up loving the kids, but wanting to help more with the mental health side rather than academics. That led to my masters program in counseling with an internship at Thomas J. Pappas Schools for Homeless. After graduation, I worked as a crisis therapist at a suicide prevention agency for a few years and gained a lot of insight and experience in helping individuals and families in crisis situations. Truthfully, I really enjoyed the adrenaline of crisis work, but still felt like I wanted to work more with children. Since my internship was done at a public school, I was able to become a licensed school counselor as well. I have been a school counselor in Phoenix and Montana for the past 20 years.
Favorite aspect of your job? I think the ability to have such range and diversity in the relationships you develop with students as a school counselor. There are days where I have never laughed so hard, and then days that are so heartbreakingly sad, you can’t help but cry. However, there is a deep joy that comes with the privilege of helping teenagers navigate some very difficult times. I also enjoy the rewarding role of supervising some truly amazing school counseling interns at our rural school.
Particularly memorable program, intervention, group, lesson you’ve implemented that you believe made an impact with your students/staff?
I think getting into the classrooms and small groups is such an effective means to show students that you are there to support all of them academically, socially and emotionally. I like to try and provide a variety of lessons or experiential learning from things that will hopefully inspire them to set goals, as well as teach them healthy ways of handling stress and relationships. I use Second Step, Real Game Careers, MCIS JR, and Look, Listen, Link in the classrooms. I’ve brought in yoga instructors and taught Oula to smaller groups as an effective way to have students try different ways to have fun and possibly learn a new coping skill.
Favorite part of the spring/fall conference? I was able to attend the MCSA virtual conference this year and was so impressed with an array of topics as well as the time to do some middle school level sharing on interventions and curriculum. I was excited to hear more on the Neurosequential Model, trauma sensitive movement/yoga and career information for middle school.
Memorable moment in your career? So many! Generally speaking, it's that spark, that “aha” moment of understanding, hope, inspiration in a student where they connect something they have learned to their lives in a meaningful, healthy way. I am so fortunate to work with a dedicated administration as well as staff and parents that feel the same way about all of our students.
Alli Bristow is certainly deserving of recognition from MSCA in her role as a school counselor at Florence-Carlton Middle School. Deftly using her expertise, she helps individual students and staff members navigate both the interpersonal and intrapersonal challenges that come up during a school day. Examples of the support she facilitates on a broader school level include establishing student friendship groups, managing student jobs, overseeing school counseling interns and providing timely grade level guidance lessons as well as SEL instruction. Alli is the go-to person for students, parents, and staff when help is needed with accessing school-based supports or for recommendations on community resources. Our middle school is fortunate to have an experienced counselor of Alli’s caliber on staff.
Audrey Backus, Middle School Principal