Photo: Bob Zorn From left are Bay Creek Middle School Principal Dana Pugh, White Oak Elementary Counselor Jennifer Diaz, Lanier Middle's Andrea Hodgin and Meadowcreek High School's William Blair. They were honored Friday during an annual counselor recognition ceremony Friday morning at the district headquarters in Suwanee.
SUWANEE -- With its tendency to overlap into other responsibilities, the job of a school counselor can often be hard to define.
During an early morning event Friday at local school district headquarters, Meadowcreek Principal Tommy Welch put it this way: "Sometimes you're a counselor, sometimes you're a nurse and sometimes you're a psychiatrist,"
The statement drew scattered laughter and applause from an audience made up entirely of school counselors.
Officials with Gwinnett County Public Schools honored professionals in the district early Friday morning as part of an annual gathering that also recognized an elementary, middle and high school counselor of the year as well as the 2013 counseling advocate.
Steve Flynt, associate superintendent for the division of school leadership and operations, bragged on them.
"We probably have the strongest counseling program in the nation," Flynt said. "and it's because of what you do every day to support our students."
Carole Boyce, school board chairman with Gwinnett County Public Schools, commended the group "for having the true gift of being able to make sure that these children have all the opportunities for success."
Those who were honored for their special efforts in the field included Bay Creek Middle School Principal Dana Pugh, Counseling Advocate of the Year; Jennifer Diaz, White Oak Elementary, Gwinnett County Elementary School Counselor of the Year; Lanier Middle's Andrea Hodgin, Gwinnett County Middle School Counselor of the Year; and Meadowcreek High School's William Blair, Gwinnett County Secondary School Counselor of the Year.
"Under the leadership of (Blair), we have felt the heartbeat of the schools's counseling department grow stronger, while strengthening our school academically and socially," said Meadowcreek High Assistant Principal Adrienne Wylie, who nominated Blair for the honor.
Lanier Middle Principal Jaime Espinosa took a turn at the microphone to recognize his employee, Hodgin, for her award.
"Good counselors are hard to come by," Espinosa said. "Great counselors are a rarity ... Andrea Hodgin is a great counselor and her work here at Lanier has not gone unnoticed and has certainly been appreciated."
Ginny Wages, a counselor with GCPS who nominated Diaz, said "she takes such initiative and has a positive impact on everyone she meets."
In nominating Pugh for the honor, Bay Creek Middle school counselor Rebecca Lisska described him as a leader who is always available to listen to new ideas that will support students. "He has encouraged and assisted us in developing and implementing counseling programs and guidance services that will benefit our students, and he is always pushing us to explore new initiatives," Lisska said.
Flynt thanked all those in attendance for their hard work:
"A counselor sometimes deals with attendance issues...other times, behavioral issues ... but the end result is that we want to see a student become a productive citizen and be able to participate in a great life, and that's what you're preparing them for at GCPS. We thank you."