Gwinnett County Public Schools named its top counselors during a special recognition ceremony at the district office on Feb. 8.
Leaving with honors were:
- Elementary School Counselor of the Year: Jennifer Diaz, counselor at White Oak Elementary in Sugar Hill
- Middle School Counselor of the Year: Andrea Hodgin, counselor at Lanier Middle in Sugar Hill
- High School Counselor of the Year: William Blair, counselor at Meadowcreek High in Norcross
- Additionally, district officials named Dana Pugh as the recipient of the Mary Joe Hannaford Counseling Advocate of the Year Award. Pough is principal of Bay Creek Middle School in Grayson.
"I'm totally surprised," said Pugh, after the ceremony. "But, I'm really honored that they would recognize me in this fashion because I really have a passion for what the counselors do and how they help our students be successful each and every day, how they support our teachers, and our community as a whole."
At Bay Creek Middle, the key to a successful counseling program is "allowing the counselors to have the flexibility to do their jobs," he added.
Each of the school level honorees said they also were honored to have won and that they were happy to be able to make a difference in the lives of students.
Hodgin, the winning counselor at Lanier Middle, said she almost doesn't feel worthy of the award. "It's just a very humbling experience to be able to represent all counselors."
"I've always wanted to be a school counselor," she continued.
Diaz, who has been a counselor at Gwinnett County schools since 2002, said she's proud of of the role she plays in children's futures. "Truly, this is who I am and what I do," she said.
"I love kids, and I want to make sure that they're able to achieve," the mother of two added. "A lot of kids have great potential, and for one reason or another they're not able to achieve it, and as a school counselor I feel like I get to be one person in their life that helps them."
Blair said his win is a testament to the counseling team that surrounds him. This is the second time he's be recommended for the award.
Counseling high school students, Blair has the opportunity to help students move beyond their secondary education into professional areas they are passionate about.
"I'm so excited to be able to make a difference in the lives of students," he said. "That's my whole goal: I've always wanted to see students succeed."
Now, the winners of the Counselors of the Year awards will move on to the regional level of competition. In all, there are more than 300 counseling professionals in the Gwinnett County school district.
--Have school news or story idea you want to share, contact Local Editor Joy L. Woodson at Joy.Woodson@patch.com or 404-539-9256.