The Shelby County School’s counseling department recently named counselors who were honored as the 2017-2018 Counselors of the Year. Cindy Smith from Forest Oaks Elementary School, Sharon Butz from Oak Mountain Middle, and the entire counseling departments from Oak Mountain High and Chelsea High School were honored as the elementary, middle and high school winners.
The awards were given during the district’s annual counselor transition training meeting, held May 30 at the Shelby County Schools Instructional Services Center. Kim Bailey, supervisor of counseling and testing for Shelby County Schools, said nominations for the Counselor of the Year awards are made by principals and other counselors. Ballots with descriptive information about each nominee are provided to all counselors across the district, who then vote for a winner from all three grade spans.
Smith was described in her nominations as an outstanding counselor who genuinely loves the students in her school and as someone who follows through on every issue that occurs until a resolution is found. She is also willing to help anyone, including students and her fellow counselors who often call her seeking documents, ideas, and advice.
“Not only is Cindy a phenomenal counselor for her students, she does so much to support and encourage her colleagues,” read a peer nomination. “She is caring, compassionate and eager to help whoever is in need. She has helped others to consider the importance of self care and the dangers of compassion fatigue. I believe that Cindy is truly deserving of this recognition.”
“Today’s school demands so much of a school counselor,” said her principal, Sasha Baker. “We expect those in this role to be teacher, parent, social worker, testing coordinator, student advocate, morale booster, snack provider, keeper of the extra clothes, party planner, action team leader, confidant, and fixer of all the problems. It is demanding in every way. After three years of working with Mrs. Smith, I have directly observed her do all these things and more. She has helped, supported, guided, taught, listened and lead. She does these things with a servant’s heart.”
Baker said Smith consistently puts others first and models for her peers and students what it looks like to work for the greater good. In times of need, her guidance is sought by many at the school.
“She mentors others and sacrifices for others’ needs,” Baker said. “During the last year, Mrs. Smith has worked with many students facing difficult times. She has counseled students who have lost parents; worked with numerous families that find themselves displaced to the nearby King’s Home; and worked with DHR and outside agencies for the benefit of students. By all accounts, she is a successful school counselor. But it is ultimately her ability to build trusting relationships that allows her to be successful.”
Butz was credited in her nomination for always rising to the occasion to ensure the needs of students are met, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. That included helping to fill the void on the Oak Mountain Middle School counseling staff created by one counselor having to attend to the needs of a chronically ill family member most of the school year. Butz “went the extra mile” by making herself available to see all 1,100 students in the school throughout the school year often as the only counselor in the building, said principal, Dr. “Larry Haynes.
“She maintains excellent rapport with all students,” said Haynes. “When meeting with students, she is nonjudgmental and accepting, while simultaneously sharing warmth and understanding to a diverse group of students.”
“Mrs. Butz is also an effective advocate for all students. She begins the year by meeting with students in classrooms to provide an overview of everything the counseling program has to offer. Furthermore, she has a unique ability to demonstrate empathy, acceptance, problem-solving skills, flexibility, and rapport-building skills.”
Rather than just one counselor being selected, this year, the entire counseling departments from Chelsea and Oak Mountain high schools were honored. The counselors at both schools experienced a difficult year due to several student deaths at the schools.
“This group of counselors has dealt with the deaths of three students this school year,” said Oak Mountain High principal, Dr. Kristi Sayers. “They have been the backbone of our school, offering counseling to teachers, students, and parents. This has been done without their missing a beat with all the other responsibilities of testing, scheduling, student-led conferences, Professional Development training, and countless other jobs. They have acted as a true team of professionals and they all deserve to have this award as a team.”
“The counselors at Chelsea High School provide guidance and support for everyone in the building,” said Chelsea High Principal Wayne Trucks. “They are a pivotal part of helping others be successful. In each circumstance – academic, behavioral, emotional – they help meet the needs of our students and staff. They definitely help make each day a Great Day to Be a Hornet!”