Counselors of the Year Announced
Three staff members have been honored with 2020–2021 Counselor of the Year awards. The trio—one each at the elementary, middle and high school levels—will be recognized at the June 10 Board of Education business meeting.
This year’s winners are:
Robin Dulli, Stone Mill Elementary School
If you had to sum up Robin Dulli in one word, the word would be kindness. She sees school counseling as more than a job. For her, it’s a mission.
Although she is in a higher risk category for dangerous symptoms from COVID-19, she brushed her fears aside to recognize the extreme community needs during the pandemic. She began helping families in their homes and made check-in visits for children at risk for abuse, isolation and depression. She sought out food distribution sites within 20 miles of the school and visited them each week to provide food to Stone Mill families. She has given her phone number to families, who call regularly for food, diapers and clothing. When students began returning to the classroom, she visited many families who the school hadn’t heard from and helped assuage their fears. She worked with the PTA to ensure all students had school supplies when they returned.
She is also a powerful presence in classrooms. She holds lunch bunches, counseling groups and daily check-ins. She never misses an opportunity to let children know that kindness is always the way to a better life.
Dulli has been a private school administrator, a teacher and a special education advocate in central office.
Colleagues say she is fully committed to equity. For the past decade, she has worked to acknowledge and elevate people to recognize their differences. The Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements have gone hand in hand with her anti-racism and anti-bullying work. She has always worked to ensure that children know their value. She works tirelessly to ensure that every child feels valued, protected and loved.
Kevin Maruskin, John Poole Middle School
Kevin Maruskin believes that every student needs an advocate, especially in times of uncertainty and fear. He has a calm and kind demeanor, and fully listens when people speak. His ability to foster collaborative relationships with colleagues, students and their families has undoubtedly boosted student achievement.
He serves on the leadership team and has a leading role in the Student Wellness Team, where his input has been invaluable. He reaches out to students and families with a combination of warm support and high expectations for achievement. He works with teams on programming for students with specific concerns, including students with 504 plans and those who are underachieving. He works with students to develop growth plans, teaching strategies for success such as using calendars and managing stress. He also excels in the “small things”—popping in to Zoom classes, engaging with the lesson and wishing someone a happy birthday. He practices mindfulness.
He is unwavering in his advocacy for students. He helped to usher in Historical Inquiry into Global Humanities in social studies—a course that incorporates computer applications, environmental science and art—and has been equally helpful to students in reading support classes. By allowing all students access to courses, he encouraged inquiry and equity. He coordinated a Career Day for eighth graders.
His work on the Student Wellness Team has used attendance, achievement and social-emotional data to benefit students. He also participates on the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support Team, making sure that students are recognized for their positive behavior, and in conflict resolution meetings.
Jennifer Oristian, Winston Churchill High School
Colleagues say Jennifer Oristian exemplifies the word “counselor.” She is positive, encouraging and supportive, and builds confidence in students. She helps students learn to advocate for themselves; supports their social, emotional and physical well-being; and helps them plan their trajectory in school and in life.
She spearheads a number of initiatives that promote student achievement and balanced emotional well-being. During Mental Health Awareness Week, she coordinates engaging activities for students and staff. She recruits local businesses focusing on health and wellness to the school. From aerial yoga to therapy dogs and mindfulness meditation, students and staff are able to participate in quarterly activities that offer stress relief. She co-sponsored the Anti-Defamation League: No Place for Hate Club, which included an open mic event for students to showcase talents during lunch. Students sang, recited poetry and played instruments. Students also participated in a Words of Encouragement campaign, posting positive messages around the building. She supported students in signing the Resolution of Respect commitment, receiving more than 700 signatures of students who pledged to promote an environment of acceptance, acknowledgement and support.
She’s a leader in the school, having served as acting assistant school administrator four times.
Oristian created a Google site for the counseling department. The site offers mental health supports, community and parent resources, and a link so students can make virtual appointments with counselors. She created an interactive course bulletin for the 2021–2022 school year. She added several technology upgrades for staff—uploading videos from resource teachers that highlighted course options and including step-by-step instructions for students to complete course requests—which helped counselors better support students and their families.
She was the class sponsor for the classes of 2012 and 2016, planning homecoming, senior banquet, prom and graduation. She is an advocate for equity. Students feel comfortable sharing their concerns with her and she provides strategies and resources to help them address challenges.