Three Staff Members Win Counselor of the Year Honors
Three staff members have been honored with 2016–2017 Counselor of the Year awards. The three—one each at the elementary, middle and high school levels—were recognized at the May 22 Board of Education business meeting.
The winners are:
Rebecca Willis, Glen Haven Elementary School
Every day, Rebecca Willis demonstrates invaluable support and commitment through her understanding of student needs, leadership, collaborative relationships, equity building and data analysis. She encourages student talents, helps students build confidence in themselves and fosters their self-esteem through a comprehensive counseling program tailored to specific needs. She helps to identify students’ interests through a career inventory and helps them get scholarships for camps or classes. Willis also helps to fulfill student needs by maintaining and providing clothes, shoes and coats from the school; she also hands out 90 Smart Sacks each week. [The Smart Sacks program sends bags of healthy food home each Friday with students who receive Free and Reduced-price Meals.] She also meets with lunch support groups focusing on parent deployment, anxiety, divorce, non-traditional families, death in family and other needs. To help foster students’ desire to succeed in school, she created a check-in/check-out behavior program with selected students that has resulted in dramatic behavioral improvements, helping them to achieve their highest potential.
Edward Reed, Robert Frost Middle School
As resource counselor, Edward Reed promotes a school culture of high expectations, professional growth, mutual respect and students learning at a high level. He has a passion for making a positive impact in the lives of students. He collaborated with the assistant principal to provide a presentation on the integration of social emotional learning in the curriculum. He was also instrumental in accelerating more than 100 students to advanced level courses. He provides opportunities for students to learn and grow. He planned a field trip to the U.S. Capitol to meet with then-Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen. He facilitated a student panel discussion entitled, “Building Bridges; Let’s Talk About Race.” His counseling team provides meaningful student activities, including a Career Café program, which connects student learning to real-world experiences and career options. Reed is also an invaluable member of the school leadership team, presenting at local and state conferences, advocating for counselors and collaborating with district leaders. He has also served as the school’s co-master scheduler, collaborating to meet the needs of more than 1,150 students and nearly 120 staff members.
Coleen Djouha, Damascus High School
Coleen Djouha started her career as a social studies teacher, but switched to counseling to pursue her passion for providing all-around support for students to be successful in high school.
She has worked at Damascus for 24 years, 15 of which have been as a counselor. Armed with a positive, engaging personality, Djouha works hard to get to know her students and families, and has a gift for creating strong, lasting relationships. She comes up with creative ways to motivate students, and connects them with community resources when needed. She collaborates with the school’s pupil personnel worker to conduct home visits with students who need that extra support. This includes creating academic intervention plans, which require having regular check-ins with students and weekly communication with parents; forming a weekly schedule of support for students to see their teachers; and mapping out long-term goals for students. Djouha is also focused on eliminating opportunity gaps for students. She does this by reviewing students’ course selection to ensure they are taking at least one Advanced Placement class by graduation, and pays special attention to populations that are in the gap—Hispanic, African American and special education students.
The School Counselor of the Year Awards focus attention on the contributions of professional school counselors within MCPS and the tremendous impact school counselors have in helping students in the county achieve school success, plan for a career, and be college-ready.