Gwinnett County Public Schools: Gwinnett Celebrates The Work Of School Counselors, 2021 Award Winners


During National School Counseling Week (Feb. 1-5), Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) is highlighting the key role GCPS school counselors play in the academic success and overall well-being of all Gwinnett school children. They support academic achievement, career awareness, and personal and social growth for both digital and in-person students, helping to ensure that each student’s social-emotional needs are met.

Using specialized training and data-based interventions and programs, school counselors guide students through activities that raise awareness, inspire exploration, and drive preparation. Counselors work with students throughout their school years, setting and building upon the foundation of academic skills, career exploration, and personal/social awareness at each level— elementary, middle, and high school.

While the work of the school counselor is unique, school counselors leverage the expertise of all professionals in the building. They work as collaborators and catalysts to help create productive and inspiring learning environments that meet students where they are, and lead them to success. Counselors work to support development in the areas of academics, careers, and personal/social growth as well as helping students to self-assess their own needs in these areas. Equipping our students with the tools necessary to be successful in every aspect of life is always the ultimate goal of our comprehensive counseling programs.

With COVID-19, school counselors pivoted quickly to deliver comprehensive counseling programs in a virtual environment. GCPS counselors adjusted delivery methods, finding creative ways to provide both in-person and virtual services to support students’ academic success, career development, and social-emotional needs. Through virtual meetings, they supported students and their families. Social and emotional learning (SEL) took center stage, and our school counselors were uniquely prepared to support colleagues and other stakeholders to deliver and expand SEL content across disciplines.

While delivering the counseling curriculum, school counselors use the five SEL competencies—self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making—to establish learning environments and experiences that foster trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation of programming and students’ needs.

“School counselors are uniquely trained to intentionally address barriers that impede students’ ability to reach their fullest potential,” says Dr. Demetria Williams, director of Advisement and Counseling. “Our students are fortunate to have school counselors advocating for them, being a champion for them, and supporting them along the path to success.”

 Our counselors help Gwinnett students shine!

2021 Counseling Awards

In a streamed awards program on Feb. 2, the school district celebrated all counselors and named its top counseling award winners for 2021. Congratulations to these staff members recognized for their work as counselors or their support of counseling in our schools!

  • 2021 Gwinnett County Elementary School Counselor of the Year Lauren Butler of Ivy Creek ES— Mrs. Butler exudes passion for school counseling, working tirelessly to help students who attend school in person and those who attend digitally. She is known as a calming leader who believes that kindness matters. In fact, she was a driving force behind her school’s celebration of Kindness Day in which students were challenged to put their kindness into action. During the pandemic, Mrs. Butler set up an eCLASS page with resources for parents and students, recorded engaging lessons based on mindsets and behaviors, held individual sessions digitally for parents and students, and continued to educate herself about the long-term effects the pandemic will have on members of her school community.

  • 2021 Gwinnett County Middle School Counselor of the Year Fabiana Fischer of Dacula MS— In her role as a 6th grade counselor, Ms. Fischer has displayed a caring heart and dedication that has changed lives, uplifted students, and had a positive impact on families. An advocate for all students, she led the efforts to provide food, school supplies, clothes, and other items to students and their families. She also works with students through the Peer Leaders and mentoring programs and provides students with assistance as they manage stress and pursue a positive lifestyle. Ms. Fischer provides safety plans for students with low grades and those needing support for social-emotional concerns. And, she provides the school’s Spanish-speaking families with community resources and helps them to express their voice in their children’s education.

  • 2021 Gwinnett County Secondary School Counselor of the Year Dr. Boone Benton of Brookwood HS— A veteran counselor of 30 years, Dr. Benton’s hard work, wisdom, enthusiasm, and dedication to students have earned the respect of his colleagues, peers, and counseling leaders around the state. Peer leadership and peer mediation are important facets of Dr. Benton’s professional work. He has led the Gwinnett County Peer Leader program, growing it to include 21 high schools, and provides training at the district and national levels. At Brookwood, he promotes diversity and servant leadership within the 67-student Peer Leader Program, which has earned national certification, the first school in Gwinnett County to receive this recognition and one of only three schools in Georgia to earn the honor.

  • 2021 Gwinnett County Mary Joe Hannaford Counselor Administrator of the Year Denise Showell of Hull MS— The Hull MS counseling team says Principal Denise Showell takes an active role in supporting counselors, empowering the counseling department to create schoolwide programs that are developmentally appropriate and that meet the needs of the school community. She consults with counselors and includes them in important initiatives, giving them the freedom to carry things to completion. Her counselors say Mrs. Showell genuinely cares about all students and the school staff. “She sets a positive tone for our school, and she does this from a place of sincerity.”

In addition, three schools— Norcross ES, Puckett’s Mill ES, and White Oak ES— were recognized as 2020 recipients of the Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) National Award. This award recognizes schools that are committed to delivering a comprehensive, data-driven counseling program. The 2020 honorees are among the 34 counseling departments in Gwinnett that currently hold the RAMP designation. A number of schools have earned the RAMP distinction twice, even three times. Every five years, schools are required to “Re-RAMP” to retain this certification. This is the second time for Puckett’s counseling department to earn RAMP, and the third time for White Oak to earn the designation.

Interested in watching the awards program online? Catch the
re-broadcast at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. each day, Feb. 22-28.

About Counseling in Gwinnett County Public Schools

Counselors raise awareness in all areas that contribute to a student’s well-being and overall school success. From kindergarten to high school, counselors teach the importance of hard work and a strong work ethic. Through intentional lessons, students learn skills that promote academic achievement, self-management, and appropriate behaviors. Through counselor-led activities, students become aware of their abilities and develop and enhance the skills necessary to fulfill their potential.

Counselors inspire exploration through activities and processes that ensure students are reaching beyond the limitations of their personal experiences. They encourage students to dream big and reach higher, working diligently to help their students develop the skills required for success. Through exploration, counselors encourage out-of-the-box thinking, creativity, and new ways of learning. These activities expose students to previously unknown career options and possible futures. Serving as guides, mentors, facilitators, and cheerleaders, counselors move students toward endless possibilities for their futures.

School counselors engage students and facilitate activities that drive preparation and support development of critical skills in the areas of academics, careers, and personal success. Skills— such as problem-solving, time management, teamwork, prioritizing, and self-management— are taught early in elementary and continually reinforced and further developed through middle and high school. Counselors ensure that students are able to apply these skills through the lens of self-awareness and situational discernment.

This press release was produced by Gwinnett County Public Schools. The views expressed here are the author’s own.