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 County School Counselors of the Year Surprised with Recognition

The San Diego County Office of Education recently surprised three school counselors at their campuses to let them know they were chosen for the San Diego County Counselor of the Year award. 

Fran Hjalmarson, a school counselor at Los Penasquitos Elementary in Poway Unified School District, was awarded the elementary award. 

Nicole Pablo, (pictured right) a school counselor at Twin Peaks Middle Schoo in Poway Unified School District, received the middle school award.

Christine Araki, a school counselor at Launch Virtual Academy in Sweetwater Union High School District, received the high school award.

The awards are sponsored by North Island Credit Union and each honoree was awarded a $500 check from the credit union. The counselors will be highlighted and recognized during an in-person event during National School Counseling Week in February.

“North Island Credit Union is thrilled to continue our partnership with the San Diego County Office of Education to recognize elementary, middle, and high school counselors for the essential role they play in the health and lives of our students,” said North Island Credit Union President/CEO Steve O’Connell. “As our students and educators faced unprecedented challenges over the last year, the work these counselors provide was more important than ever. We congratulate the 2022 Counselor of the Year honorees for their hard work and dedication to the success of their students and their entire school communities.”

In addition, two new awards, Advocate of the Year and Lifetime Achievement, were announced this week.

Tami Johnson, district school counselor and program specialist at Cajon Valley Union School District, received the Advocate of the Year award, a new award created this year to recognize the important work of school counselors at the district level.

Dr. Trish Hatch, professor emeritus at San Diego State University and president and CEO of Hatching Results, LLC, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement award for her years of work supporting the county's school counselors.

“We are honored to recognize these exceptional school counselors along with our Advocate of the Year and Lifetime Achievement award recipients,” said San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold. "They demonstrate how important school counselors are to student success. During the past two years as students and families faced new and evolving challenges during the pandemic, school counselors served as critical lifelines who could connect students with additional support and access to mental and social-emotional resources.”

About the Honorees

Fran Hjalmarson has been a school counselor at Los Penasquitos Elementary for 18 years. She has spent years generously mentoring new counselors, supervising 21 counseling interns. Hjalmarson’s nominator called her a seasoned professional and said she is “the district's go-to-person for any counseling related questions or concerns.”

Nicole Pablo joined Twin Peaks Middle School in 2018. She serves as the lead for counselors working at the middle school level in the Poway Unified School District. Pablo’s associate superintendent said she was fully committed to supporting her colleagues in establishing comprehensive, data-informed school counseling programs aligned with the ASCA National model.

Christine Araki has been a counselor for more than 20 years, and joined Launch Virtual Academy in August 2021. Her nominator shared that during the pandemic, Araki checked in with every single one of her students to see how they were doing and to offer support or connect. Araki said, “No matter the situation, I will always find a way to meet the needs of our students.”

Tami Johnson has worked with school districts in Riverside, Los Angeles, San Diego counties as a consultant, trainer, teacher, school counselor, and employee. She began her career working with students on probation and parole in a day treatment setting and has continued working to ensure that all students can achieve their best possible self. She currently works as a program specialist and district school counselor in Cajon Valley Union School District. She also serves as an adjunct instructor at Point Loma Nazarene University, where she has contributed to program and course design, fieldwork supervision and classroom instruction.

Dr. Trish Hatch leads a team of award-winning school counseling professionals who provide professional learning and consultation to school districts across the country. She is co-author of the ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs (ASCA, 2003; 2005), a seminal document in the profession, and the best-selling author of The Use of Data in School Counseling: Hatching Results for Students, Programs, and the Profession (2021, 2013), and co-authored three other best-selling books based on its concepts. A former school counselor, site and central office administrator, Hatch has received multiple national awards, including ASCA’s Administrator of the Year award and its highest honor, the Mary Gehrke Lifetime Achievement award.

The three school counselor of the year honorees were chosen out of 16 submissions. All recipients will be recognized at a new event, "Honoring Excellence in School Counseling Leadership," which coincides with National School Counseling Week in February.

Find information about school counseling and upcoming events at