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Gwinnett schools honor counselors

Tinisha Parker

Tinisha Parker

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Brandee Appling

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Michelle Stagline

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Paul Johnson

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Robin Zorn

SUWANEE — As someone who regularly video chats and texts with her students, Tinisha Parker often thinks many people don’t understand her job, much less think she is worthy of an award.

But that was the case on Friday morning at Gwinnett County Public Schools’ annual counselor recognition ceremony at the GCPS Instructional Support Center. Parker, a counselor at Gwinnett County’s Online Campus, was awarded the High School Counselor of the Year, and was one of five recipients to receive such an honor.

Paul Johnson, an assistant principal at Peachtree Ridge High School, was honored as the Advocate of the Year, while Michelle Stagline, of Sycamore Elementary, won Writer of the Year. Stagline authored the e-book — “Creative Counseling 101” — that incorporates everyday experiences into counseling to serve as confidence boosters for kids.

Robin Zorn, an award recipient from Mason

Elementary, was not only applauded by her principal for using data to improve students’ achievement, but also for her personality. And in 2010, she also spearheaded the district’s Elementary School Peer Leadership Conference.

“It’s hard to claim she’s working, when she has so much fun each day,” Mason principal Paula Deweese said.

Brandee Appling from Bay Creek Middle, was recognized by her principal as a leader in the school’s anti-bullying initiative. Appling also developed a transition program from feeder elementary schools to ease the process from fifth grade.

While most of the recipients were surprised, Johnson was especially emotional, and even noted his denim shirt and khaki pants as one reason he had no idea he’d win the honor.

“I’m still a bit speechless. I wasn’t even prepared. Everybody else has coats and ties on,” Johnson said. “But it’s very easy to support folks when you work with great people.”

Parker said she has the same responsibilities as a traditional school counselor, but, “I have to do it very differently,” she said, referring to cellphones, text messaging and virtual real-time college tours.

“I was shocked,” she said of the award, “Because what I do is spend most of my time explaining what I do, so I didn’t think enough people knew what I do to award it.”

Parker is credited with defining and developing the role of online counseling.

The recipients now compete at the regional level where they could qualify for state and national awards.