Two Carroll County Public School employees were recognized this week for going above and beyond as school counselors.
The school system recognized Sarah Gallagher from Shiloh Middle School and Sherry Scott from Northwest Middle School, who were named semifinalists for the Maryland School Counselor of the Year Award. School counselors from across the state were nominated based on their innovations and comprehensive school counseling programs, according to a news release from the school system. The Maryland School Counselor Association has already named a winner for the award but Gallagher and Scott both said they were grateful their hard work has been noticed.
Gallagher said it was a nice surprise being nominated for the award and being appreciated by her fellow staff.
“The people who wrote recommendation letters were so nice,” she said, adding it was a “bright spot in a dark year.”
Gallagher has worked for the school system and at Shiloh Middle for the past seven years. She was a teacher before at Sykesville Middle School but made the switch to focus on her favorite part of the job, talking to kids.
“I didn’t mind giving up lesson plans and grading,” she said.
Scott said being named a semifinalist was humbling.
“I don’t do this job for recognition,” she said. “I do this job because I want to help kids.”
Scott was not always a school counselor either. Before spending four years at Northwest Middle, she spent three at Carroll County’s division of rehabilitation services. She said she always enjoyed working with students and wanted to make the greatest impact on their lives.
She said working as a counselor in the school system “really gives you the opportunity to capture what’s going in the community and fill in those gaps that the kids may not be getting otherwise.”
Scott said she is a product of CCPS and knew she wanted to give back to the community. Northwest Middle doesn’t always have all the resources other schools have, she said, but she and her fellow staff members “make sure kids have their social emotional needs met.”
She said some of needed resources are more therapists in the building and more time for planning.
When it comes to being a counselor during the pandemic, both Gallagher and Scott said it was a challenge. It was hard accessing the students who needed their services. Some didn’t know how to check their email, Gallagher said. And Scott noted others did not have access to technology.
Gallagher said later she dealt with a lot more parents than usual who were asking for help for their kids.
“I don’t specialize with adults but it’s been nice finding solidarity with other parents,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher said the pandemic has been hard on everyone who are stretched to the max, but she feels better knowing more staff have been vaccinated.
Scott said the pandemic brought mental health issues to light.
“I think the pandemic did an amazing job of unearthing just how poor the mental health in our country is,” she said. “It highlighted that adults and children are struggling with a lot of mental health concerns.”
Scott said school counselors need the advocacy and the pandemic helped recognize that.
Judy Klinger, the supervisor school counseling, said she was excited for Gallagher and Scott and said the 83 Carroll counselors go above and beyond.
“Counselors have actually been working overtime in all honesty and have not really missed a beat,” she said.
This isn’t the first time Carroll counselors have been recognized by the state, according to Klinger. They had finalists before and a state winner who represented Maryland at the White House, she said. Klinger said it’s not a coincidence Carroll counselors are often recognized, but it could be the culture of passion and commitment at CCPS as well as the high standards she has as a supervisor.
“If I would have put any of my counselors up for an award, I think it would be very competitive,” she said.
Both counselors said despite the challenges, the students keep them coming back. Gallagher said she enjoys the “silly middle school stuff” that goes on in Shiloh as well as her colleagues.
Scott said seeing the baby steps made in a kid’s progress keeps her motivated.