GOOD NEWS FROM SCHOOLS: Three educators named Georgia's top counselors

The Georgia School Counselors Association recently selected three Gwinnett County Public Schools educators as the state’s top counseling professionals, recognizing them for the support they provide to students.

The three Gwinnett counseling professionals will be formally recognized Nov. 4 during the Georgia School Counselor Association Annual State Conference in Athens.

The organization named Dana Edwards of Grayson Elementary as the 2010 Georgia Elementary Counselor of the Year, Kelly Flower of Five Forks Middle as the 2010 Georgia Middle Counselor of the Year and Karen Griffith of Berkeley Lake Elementary as the 2010 Georgia Counselor Writer of the Year.

A veteran counselor for more than two decades, Edwards feels the counseling profession is a noble one.

“Being a school counselor is a calling,” she said. “It requires managing your time and resources, utilizing flexibility and serving a large community of learners.”

In her mind, that community of learners extends beyond children. As a servant leader, she not only supports students but also provides support to teachers. She said her goal is to minimize the barriers to learning, while also finding ways to minimize the barriers to teaching.

“My job is to help others feel encouraged, become self-reliant, and build a sense of belonging and community,” she said.

Recently, Edwards was invited to be the featured speaker during American School Counselors Association’s annual national conference to share details from an article she published in the ASCA School Counselor Magazine. She also led Grayson Elementary’s work to receive recognition for implementing ASCA’s national model in the school’s guidance program.

Flower, a seventh-grade counselor at Five Forks Middle, is known as an educator who is focused on supporting her students.

Administrators at the school said Flower is a counselor on a mission to reach out and positively impact the students and community of the Five Forks Middle.

In her work, Flower prepares her students to be independent learners, removing barriers to learning while creating a nurturing school climate.

“I believe that students are most successful when they are self-motivated and invested in their personal goals and academic achievements, when parents are involved in their children’s learning, and when I exemplify empathy, encouragement, optimism, patience, understanding and passion for helping others,” she said.

Flower has created and implemented a number of programs that support Five Forks Middle students academically, emotionally and behaviorally. One of those programs is the Blazin’ Bronco Program, which focuses on the top 10 traits of a successful student.

The program recognizes students who exemplify the traits of respect, honesty, optimism, encouragement, punctuality, organization, obedience, motivation, responsibility and academic excellence. Since the implementation of the program in 2008, Five Forks has seen an improvement in student behavior.

Griffith, the 2008 Georgia Elementary Counselor of the Year and a finalist for the 2009 National Elementary Counselor of the Year title, is now being recognized for her published work. Her book is titled “Creative Small Groups, Ready-to-Use Lessons for Grades K-5.”

Edwards, Flower and Griffith earned Georgia’s top counseling honors after being named county level and Region 2 winners earlier this year.

Gwinnett County counselors are consistently among the most recognized in the country in state and national honors. In 2009, three Gwinnett educators also were named state winners.

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