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 School Counselors of the Year Announced

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

Ann Pierce, of Campo Elementary in Mountain Empire Unified School District, who won the elementary award, was surprised with flowers, balloons, and banners on Jan. 22. 

Bonnie Hayman, of La Mesa Arts Academy in La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, who won the middle school award, was greeted with a drive-by celebration on Jan. 22. 

Cherryl Baker, of Mission Hills High School in San Marcos Unified School District, who won the high school award was also notified with cheers on Jan. 22.

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 the 6th annual San Diego School Counselor Con on Feb. 4, the second day of the virtual conference. 

“We’re thrilled to recognize these three school counselors,” said San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold. "They are shining examples of why school counselors are so integral to student success especially now during distance learning and increased hardships due to the pandemic. They’ve provided the invaluable work of connecting with students who have been out of touch or disengaged, and have highlighted the critical need for strong relationships with students and their families.”

“North Island Credit Union is honored to expand our partnership with 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 have faced unprecedented challenges over the last year, the critical support and resources these counselors provide are more important than ever. We congratulate the 2021 Counselor of the Year honorees for their hard work and dedication to the success of their students and their entire school communities.”

New this year is the Elementary School Counselor of the Year award, added to emphasize the differences between counselors at the different grade levels. While it’s not as common for elementary schools to have school counselors, the support they provide for younger students can have lasting impacts.

“Elementary school counselors can provide a lot of social and emotional support through lesson plans for teachers, art therapy, and other ways to help children at the time the trauma experience happens,” explained Tanya Bulette, counseling coordinator at the San Diego County Office of Education.  

These three counselors were chosen out of 47 submissions.  

Ann Pierce has been a school counselor for 12 years, the last seven at Campo Elementary in Mountain Empire Unified School District. In her nomination letter the school principal wrote that Pierce a compassionate and selfless person, and that she goes above and beyond to support families, which has been even more important during the pandemic. She provides culturally relevant supports for the school’s Native American students and never hesitates to do home visits, deliver food and clothing, and attend cultural gatherings.

Bonnie Hayman has been a school counselor for more than 30 years in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District. During the pandemic, she has led the La Mesa Arts Academy (LMAAC) community of students, families, and staff through this emotional time, and she did it all with her usual level of “calm, grace, skill, and compassion.” Hayman said she was part of the design team for LMAAC as a place for character development, inclusivity, and healing for students in grades 4 to 8 who reported being bullied, disconnected, or judged in previous school experiences. 

Cherryl Baker has been a high school counselor for more than 20 years in the San Marcos Unified School District. She was part of the design team for Mission Hills High School. One nominator said she has made a lasting mark through her unwavering dedication for supporting all students to be college-, career-, and life-ready. She has founded numerous clubs and organizations to connect students including the Peer Leaders Uniting Students Program, Cardinal Scholars, the ADL No Place for Hate Program, and most recently, the Students Without Limits Program, which supports undocumented/immigrant youth. “Regardless of a student’s cultural, linguistic, economic, or social background, Cherryl is dedicating to removing barriers and creating opportunities for all,” a nominator wrote. 

The San Diego School Counselor Conference will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 3 and 4. The virtual event is only $30 per person and includes learning sessions for school counselors serving every grade level.