Three Staff Members Win Counselor of the Year Honors
Three staff members have been honored with 2017–2018 Counselor of the Year awards. The three—one each at the elementary, middle and high school levels—were recognized at the May 21 Board of Education business meeting.
This year’s winners are:
Christina Castellano, Bannockburn Elementary School
Christina Castellano has been instrumental in raising student achievement levels and creating a climate that makes Bannockburn a special place to learn. Each month, she promotes a character trait, which also includes a school assembly, recognition celebrations for students, class lessons and parent outreach. She launched a Kindness Committee, which calls on students to practice kindness in deliberate and purposeful ways. She serves on the school’s Core Team and the Instructional Leadership Team. She manages the 504 Plans Process. She spearheaded a Mindfulness Program for students and staff, including securing funding through the PTA. This program has been credited with improved behavior and increased student achievement. She also promotes positive morale among the staff by posting a teacher’s picture in the staff mailroom and encouraging others to write a positive word about the person. She strongly believes in unconditional positive regard and promotes empathy and belonging. “She is my voice of reason and I will be forever grateful to her depth of knowledge of human behavior and pedagogy as well as her empathy and kindness to the human condition,” principal Kate Bradley wrote in her nomination letter. “She makes me not only a better administrator, but also a better person.”
Rebecca Best, Thomas W. Pyle Middle School
In her 13th year as a counselor at Pyle, Rebecca Best is a leader in the school, and demonstrates this through her strong relationships with students, staff and parents. She is responsible for many student support programs, including SPIRIT, made up of a variety of students, including some with special needs; a grief support group for students who have lost a family member; and a group for children with military parents. She also helps to run two after-school programs—a tennis program and a mentoring group that pairs special needs students with regular education students. She leads mindfulness activities for students, and spearheaded the school’s effort to earn a National School of Character designation. Best is intuitive, thoughtful, reflective and always acknowledges the special gifts of her students. “These qualities and her positive outlook enable her to skillfully assist young students dealing with difficult issues,” Hospice Caring volunteer Katherine Crosson wrote in her nomination letter. “I have worked in many schools and have never witnessed a counselor quite like Ms. Best—she is in a class of her own.”
Sarah Patterson, Clarksburg High School
A National Board Certified teacher, Sarah Patterson is in her 15th year with Montgomery County schools. She has a keen understanding of children and young adults. She works hard to learn the names of her students, including their correct pronunciations, so that she can greet them by name each day. She is trusted to be a reliable resource in the building; colleagues regularly seek her out for recommendations and suggestions. She helps students with their futures, and also works to gather feedback to make sure she’s providing a comprehensive school counseling program. She routinely runs grade reports through myMCPS to identify students who might need additional support or intervention, and runs attendance reports for families who might need extra contact. She has worked at the middle school, high school and college levels, and that has helped her provide knowledge not only to students, but also to parents and staff. She is described as humble, kind and with a desire to progress through reflective practice. She feels a strong responsibility to improve the condition of others. Patterson has also led professional development trainings at the local and national levels on how to successfully implement an award-winning character development program at the middle school level.
The School Counselor of the Year Awards focus attention on the contributions of professional school counselors within MCPS. Nominees must be counselors who understand the individual needs of students, encourage their talents and foster their self-esteem; foster collaborative relationships with colleagues, students and their families; instill in students a desire to learn and achieve while advocating for equity; and use technology to enhance student learning.