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SDCOE Counselor Named County Counselor of the Year

SDCOE Counselor Named County Counselor of the Year
2023 High School Counselor of the Year Chris Toomey with other SDCOE staff members and Superintendent Gothold


Chris Toomey has been a school counselor for SDCOE’s Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) for nearly 20 years. For the past four, he’s been at San Pasqual Academy (SPA), a residential education campus designed specifically for foster youth. He now has a new title: 2023 San Diego County High School Counselor of the Year.

Toomey was surprised Feb. 9 by his school team, SDCOE Counseling Coordinator Tanya Bulette, and San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold with the announcement that he won the countywide honor.

Every student and story is unique and I get to appreciate them all.

Chris Toomey

Toomey says counseling is a calling. He wasn’t a great student in school but had a teacher who really connected with him in high school. That left the urge to give back to other students like him. When he moved from Hawaii to San Diego, Chris says he applied to every district in the county and saw the posting at SDCOE. He was excited about the population of students we serve as he had always worked with alternative education programs and students. Chris joined SDCOE in 2005 as a counselor in what was then known as the Mountain region. He has worked in the North, East, and Mesa regions before joining SPA. He was previously a counselor in San Diego Unified School District and for the Hawaii Department of Education.

In his recommendation letter, Bruce Petersen, executive director of Student Services and Programs, said, “What sets Chris apart is his unmatched interpersonal skills. He shows great respect and dignity for all people, regardless of their background, position, or status. He has a great sense of humor and ability to connect with people. His easy-going style and winsome demeanor puts people at ease and provides a positive school experience for students, parents, and colleagues.”

What does he like best about working at SPA? Toomey says he gets a kick out of the students, watching them grow and learn. The more time you work with them, you see them mature and navigate this difficult world and help them find their way, which is very rewarding, he says. In addition to the students, Chris notes that he has gotten to meet a lot of good people through his work.

“Chris is a school counselor who doesn't wait for systems to change in order to support the students that he serves at JCCS,” says Bulette. “ When Chris identified the inequities of not having college courses offered at SPA, he became an adjunct instructor at Palomar College so that he could teach courses on campus to eliminate barriers and provide students equal opportunity and access. And it’s that kind of tenacity that makes him worthy of this countywide recognition.”

After 20-plus years counseling, you would think Toomey has one or two students who stick out. Rather, he says he is fortunate to meet so many students.

“Every student and story is unique and I get to appreciate them all,” he explained.

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