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Gwinnett announces school system's top counselors for 2006-07

SUWANEE - Gwinnett County Public Schools on Monday announced the system's top counselors for the 2006-07 school year.

Each of the winners has a passion to help children and goes above and beyond his or her job duties in wanting all children to be successful, said Dianne Thompson, the director of advisement and counseling. The winners are announced during National School Counseling Week, which is the first full week of February.

The winners went through an extensive application process that included highlighting their best practices, Thompson said. Each of the winners created programs focused on student success or parental involvement.

"I think a lot of people don't understand the scope of what counselors do," Thompson said. "They're really a support to academics within the building."

Counselors advise students on academic matters and issues that affect academic performance, she said. They provide guidance on anger and stress management and talk to students when pets die or when they are experiencing troubles at home.

At Berkeley Lake Elementary School, Elementary School Counselor of the Year Laura Marantz said she is driven by her beliefs to help others "be prepared and feel confident in their ability to face those situations in life that they cannot control."

"I work to instill the hope and confidence necessary to live in a world that is ever changing and challenging," she said in a news release. "I strive to help them recognize their own power and pursue their own possibilities."

To provide consistence in Berkeley Lake's relationship with students and their parents, Marantz arranged for counselors to work with the same group of students through their elementary careers, allowing counselors a greater opportunity to get to know and support the students, school system officials said.

"She has wowed the staff," Berkeley Lake Principal Leigh Westcott said in a news release. "Throughout each day, you will see Laura sharing ideas, having courageous conversations, and supporting what is best for children."

Gwinnett's Middle School Counselor of the Year has created programs that teach student leadership and academic responsibility.

Margaret Cheeley of Creekland Middle School created the Skills for Success Class, which teaches eighth-grade students how to be leaders and role models in their school and community. She also teaches a class called STAR, or Students Taking Academic Responsibility, which emphasizes study skills, test-taking tips and motivation techniques.

Cheeley also regularly visits the elementary schools that feed into Creekland, educating fifth-grade students about entering middle school, school system officials said.

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

This is not the first time Cheeley has earned this type of recognition. She was first honored in 1993 as Gwinnett County Elementary Counselor of the Year. More recently, in the 2004-05 school year, she earned the middle school title, going on to be named Georgia's 2005 Region 2 Middle School Counselor of the Year.

The system's Secondary Counselor of the Year has introduced programs to improve services offered to students and has increased awareness of the counseling department's activities.

After seeing a need for more parent involvement at Duluth High School, Demetria Williams created a Freshman Parent Night, a first for the school. Parents were able to obtain academic information for their new high school students, participating in discussions with the counseling team, school system officials said.

She also implemented the New Teacher Orientation to the Counseling Department, which serves as an opportunity for teachers new to the school to learn about the counseling department and its services.

The principal of South Gwinnett High School has been chosen by his counseling staff as the Counseling Advocate of the Year.

The counseling team of South Gwinnett High describes Principal Berry Simmons as student centered, cognizant of counselor professionalism, visible and a quality leader, school system officials said.

"He exhibits very strong personal attributes that make others around him want to work equally as hard for the betterment of student," counselor Patt Foster said in a news release. "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."

Three counselors have also been recognized for an article they published in the fall 2005 issue of the Georgia School Counselors Association Journal.

Jennifer Martin, Rachael Fogleman and Christy Armstrong all worked at Cooper Elementary School when they wrote the article titled, "Careers Under Construction: An Elementary Approach to Career Education."

Armstrong now works at Duncan Creek Elementary School.

GCPS has had many award-winning counselors. The system has had 28 counselors and advocates honored nationally by the American School Counselor Association and 26 counselors and advocates honored in the state by the Georgia School Counselors Association.