Pine View’s new eighth- and ninth-grade guidance counselor Ashley Byington has no shortness of enthusiasm for the school she now works at, nor the students, teachers and parents with whom she will interact. Byington is starting the school year off with fresh ideas and excitement about her new position.
Upon beginning college at the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa, Byington briefly planned to be a part of the premed track, but changed her major to psychology after taking her first chemistry class. “For the most part, I’ve always wanted to be a guidance counselor,” she said.
Knowing she wanted to work with children, she took a job as a counselor at a charter school in Tampa while still studying at USF. “I worked at a charter school for kindergarten through fifth grade and I loved it, but I think my personality matches more with middle and high school students,” Byington said. “So when I finally realized that I wanted to work in a school but that I didn’t want to be a teacher, I figured guidance was the best spot for me.” Byington returned to USF for graduate school, where she completed a program in school counseling for middle and high school.
After graduate school, Byington took a position at Port Charlotte High School, where she is an alumna. According to her, she spent four years with the school but decided to leave for financial reasons and for the sake of her family. “My fiancé and I started looking elsewhere, and Sarasota County was the obvious choice…” Byington said.
While looking into counselor positions in the area, she learned that there was an opening at Pine View but was apprehensive at first. “I had heard a little bit about Pine View, but I wasn’t totally aware of what the school had to offer. So when I saw a position open I applied, thinking I wasn’t totally going to be qualified because even though I’ve been a guidance counselor for six years now and worked with gifted students, I haven’t in this capacity,” Byington said. “So I wasn’t totally sure if I qualified for the position just because it’s a different realm for me.”
She applied, interviewed and met with Principal Dr. Stephen Covert later that day. “When he offered me the position, there was no doubt that I would take the offer because it was the best possible thing that I knew was going to come along,” Byington said. She said that leaving Port Charlotte was a blessing in disguise because of the opportunities at Pine View.
Byington is excited to to become a part of the Pine View community this year. “I think I’m the most excited about just being a part of such a cool environment. Everyone I’ve met so far — students, parents, teachers — have been so nice,” she said. “It’s blown me away. I haven’t had that same experience at other schools that I’ve been at, so I’m amazed, and excited to grow into the Pine View family.”
So far, Byington has mostly handled schedule changes for her students. However, she has goals for the upcoming year, including spending more time in classrooms, giving presentations to students. She also wants to develop groups at Pine View to have small discussions between students with similar interests or issues.
Byington still lives in Port Charlotte with her husband, who now works at North Port High School, and her two young children, although she is looking to move to North Port in order to be closer to both of their jobs.