School Counselors Recognized with Top Honors
Three staff members have been honored with 2019–2020 Counselor of the Year awards. The three—one each at the elementary, middle and high school levels—were recognized at the May 28 Board of Education business meeting.
The winners received yard signs delivered to their homes.
This year’s winners are:
Gloria A. Silverberg, Luxmanor Elementary School
Gloria Silverberg had been a fixture at Luxmanor for 24 years. She is described as the heart of the school. From friendship groups to divorce groups to individual counseling, Silverberg’s counseling program helps students deal with everything life throws at them. Her membership on the Educational Management Team allows her to address the emotional needs of students as their overall academic and social needs are discussed with school specialists. Her knowledge of issues such as depression, anxiety and ADHD is invaluable. Her use of kindness cards during class lessons grew into the creation of peace rocks created by each class, which will be used to create a peace rock garden at the school. Her sponsorship of the Student Government Association has helped her build leadership skills in students as she helps them learn how to run a campaign for student office; how to accept victory or defeat with dignity; and how to promote a vision of inclusiveness and ideas to improve the school. She has brought mindfulness to the school, not only training teaching staff and students on how to use the strategy, but also training cafeteria staff on how to use them during lunch. Overseeing student mentors, fundraising, career speakers, Pennies for Patients and more, Silverberg makes it all look easy.
Elizabeth J. Merino, A. Mario Loiederman Middle School
Elizabeth Merino has been a counselor at Loiederman since 2016. She currently supervises three full-time counselors and an administrative assistant. She counsels more than 200 students and also serves as the assigned ESOL counselor. Her role as Resource Counselor also incorporates weekly participation and ongoing support on the Instructional Leadership Team. She stays focused on individualizing students’ needs by facilitating small groups. She mentors students in the Truancy Prevention Program. Her La Cultura Cura training evolved into her initiating a group to support female English Language Learners impacted by trauma. She leads support focused conversations with the teachers of Emerging Multilingual Learners (EMLs). She is an advocate for all students, but especially encourages students and families who are new to the country to fully engage in all of the opportunities that Loiederman and MCPS have to offer. She embraces All Means All as her leadership supports a variety of student needs, including Girls on the Run and Safe Spaces groups for LGBTQ students. These groups provide students with venues that enable them to grow their self-esteem, uncover their talents, and form a close connection with each other and the school community. From late-night home visits to midday wellness checks, no student or family is overlooked. She promotes Be Well 365 throughout the school year by leading Restorative Justice practices at school, and providing students with stress-free lunch opportunities.
Jennifer A. Poole, Montgomery Blair High School
Jennifer Poole is one of 13 counselors at Blair; she serves about 250 students. This year, she has focused on ESOL students, creating and reviewing four-year plans to ensure they are on track to graduate. She has spearheaded and implemented several initiatives, including anti-bullying and mental health awareness programs; senior workshops to increase student eligibility and graduation rates; and student voice panels to ensure the well-being of her students emotionally, physically and academically. She stays on top of technology to stay connected with students. During the pandemic, she quickly assumed the leadership role of assessing the technology needs of all ESOL students at Blair. A colleague wrote that she has “taken every opportunity to educate herself on the struggles our immigrant students go through to get here, as well as what they struggle with in order to stay.” She has built a relationship so that students share what is going on in their lives with her. She is confident, intuitive and effective. She relates well to students of all ability levels and helps the students who struggle the most feel successful. For students, she is a shoulder to cry on, a mediator who serves as a liaison with a teacher or parent, and a cheerleader always pushing students to realize their potential. She’s also reflective on her practices and welcomes feedback.