Good news from schools: Gwinnett educators win state honors in counseling

Two Gwinnett County Public Schools counselors and a high school principal were honored at the state level recently for the roles they play in advising and counseling, as well as promoting the counseling profession.

The Georgia Schools Counselors' Association conferred the following awards:

' Margaret Cheeley of Collins Hill High was named the 2007 State Middle School Counselor of the Year for her work at Creekland Middle.

Cheeley had previously been honored as the Gwinnett County Elementary Counselor of the Year, in 1993, and the Region 2 Middle School Counselor of the Year in 2005. Creekland Middle Principal Bill Kruskamp said Cheeley's enthusiasm and tireless efforts to help students earned her a nomination this year.

"When you look at her list of activities, it is very obvious that Margaret works to support students academically, emotionally, and socially," Kruskamp said. "Margaret is a tireless advocate for all students."

Cheeley has created a number of programs, including the Skills for Success Class, in which she taught eighth-grade students how to be leaders and role models in their schools and communities. She also taught a connections class called STAR, or Students Taking Academic Responsibility, which emphasized study skills, test-taking tips and motivation techniques. She would also regularly visit the elementary schools that feed into Creekland Middle, educating and motivating fifth-graders about entering middle school.

' Demetria Williams of Duluth High was named the 2007 State Secondary Counselor of the Year.

Williams started working at Duluth in 2001, and in her first year as a school counselor she was a proactive, energetic force in the school. She introduced new programs to improve the services offered to the students and has increased awareness of the counseling department's activities.

For example, after she saw a need for more parent involvement, she began a Freshman Parent Night, a first for the school. Parents were able to obtain academic information for their new high school students and talk with the counseling team. She also implemented the New Teacher Orientation to the Counseling Department, which helps teachers new to the school learn about the department and its services.

In addition to her role at the school, Williams is an advocate for counselors at the county, regional and state levels. She serves as the High School Level Chair for Gwinnett counselors, and has led the Georgia School Counselors Association both as chair and co-chair.

' Berry Simmons, the principal of South Gwinnett High, was named the 2007 State Counseling Advocate of the Year.

The counseling team of South Gwinnett High describes Simmons as student-centered, cognizant of counselor professionalism, visible and a quality leader.

"He exhibits very strong personal attributes that makes others around him want to work equally as hard for the betterment of students," counselor Patt Foster said. "Mr. Simmons' leadership style allows those working for him to grow and become leaders themselves as he regards each person highly as an individual and allows everyone to flourish in their particular position."

Counseling Department Chair Debbie Howard said Simmons is not an administrator known for sitting behind closed doors.

"From his earliest days at the school, he mingled with students," she said. "He worked closely with the guidance office to brainstorm interventions to enhance not only students' academic success but their sense of belonging and well-being. He empowers counselors."

Cheely, Williams and Simmons will go on to compete at the national level. Before the state honor, the three earned regional recognition.

Three other GCPS counselors were also honored at the regional level as the Region 2 Counselor Writers of the Year. Jennifer Martin and Rachael Fogleman of W.J. Cooper Elementary and Christy Armstrong of Duncan Creek Elementary wrote an article published in the fall 2005 issue of the Georgia School Counselors Association Journal. The article, written when all three worked at Cooper, was titled "Careers Under Construction: An Elementary Approach to Career Education."

United Ebony Society of Gwinnett honors leaders in county education

The United Ebony Society of Gwinnett County recently honored the following Gwinnett County Public Schools leaders at its 25th annual Teacher Appreciation Reception:

' Frances Davis, Gwinnett's associate superintendent of human resources, has more than 27 years of experience in education.

"Davis is an accomplished teacher, elementary school principal, middle school principal, central office administrator, adjunct professor, educational consultant and public speaker," a news release said. "Her vision, expertise and passion for public education have driven notable gains in student achievement, teacher recruitment and retention and leadership development."

' Jorge Gomez, the executive assistant for administration in the Office of the Superintendent, serves as the liaison between schools, parents, citizens and community leaders. He works on legal issues as well as systemwide policies and procedural matters.

The former middle school principal came to Gwinnett in 2003 after working as a teacher and administrator in Broward County, Fla.

' Linda Anderson, an area superintendent, is the direct supervisor of the Results Based Evaluation System for all schools and principals in the Brookwood, Meadowcreek, Parkview, Shiloh and South Gwinnett clusters. She is also responsible for approving all school improvement plans and providing instructional support for all schools.

"Anderson is a dedicated, educated professional committed to continuous improvement and seeks to utilize quality leadership expertise as a way to support and enhance a culture of high academic achievement," the news release states.

' James Taylor, the district's executive director of academic support, is a 30-year veteran of public education. He has served as a teacher, counselor, hearing officer, director of alternative programs, high school principal, assistant superintendent and associate superintendent.

Taylor is a member of Brookland Baptist Church and has also served as an adult Sunday school teacher and president of the Youth Council. According to the news release, he enjoys sports, reading, writing manuscripts and spending quality time with his family. His motto is, "Anything worth doing is worth doing right."

Heather Darenberg writes about education. Good News From Schools appears in the Sunday edition of the Gwinnett Daily Post.