UGA College of Education graduate to be recognized by state school chief as Georgia’s top counselors

UGA College of Education graduates to be recognized by state school chief as Georgia’s top elementary and secondary counselors

Athens, Ga. – University of Georgia College of Education graduates Kelly Cowart and Brent Henderson were recently named 2007 Georgia Counselors of the Year – one at the elementary level and the other at the secondary level – by the Georgia School Counselors Association. They both work as school counselors in Gwinnett County.

The two counselors will be recognized for their achievement by State School Superintendent Kathy Cox at the State Department of Education on Feb. 8.

Cowart (EdS ’06), who grew up in Dunwoody, a suburb of Atlanta, says her mission is to promote belonging among students, staff and families in the Meadowcreek Elementary School community. That commitment is evident in her activities as school counselor for kindergarten and 1st grade students at her school.

Through collaboration with faculty, early learning agencies, the United Way and area businesses, Cowart developed a “KinderCamp” program to prepare more than 40 incoming kindergartners for the transition to school, while their parents attended daily “lunch and learn” sessions. Literacy backpacks boosted the students’ literacy exposure and stoked their eagerness for the start of the school year.

Last summer Cowart spent three weeks in Mexico to learn more about the culture and language to better serve Meadowcreek’s Spanish-speaking students and families. She uses a small-group reading program to help Hispanic girls reading below grade level to feel more capable in the classroom through literacy achievement.

A lifelong learner and a frequent presenter herself, Cowart eagerly shares what she learns with her colleagues. A center-based guidance classroom and play therapy techniques are strategies that she has developed for her school.

“Kelly Cowart is like E.F. Hutton. When she speaks, those around her stop, listen, and reflect on her wisdom and advice,” said Principal Margaret Ackerman.

As the counseling department chair at Norcross High School, Henderson (EdS ’04, MEd ’02) has found numerous ways to serve the school’s diverse student body and support the Norcross High staff by developing innovative guidance programs and further developing existing services.

One of his favorite responsibilities is working with rising eighth graders as they learn more about academic and extracurricular programs. From tours of the building with student leaders to informational meetings for parents and students, this introduction to Norcross High is an important part of the transition from middle school.

Henderson has streamlined the registration process for new students. With the designation of a Counselor of the Day, he ensures that the counseling staff has fewer daily interruptions as one colleague, on a rotating basis, assumes responsibility for speaking to walk-in parents, handling crises, and consulting with faculty and staff.

Once at the school, students benefit from an advisement program implemented by the faculty and supported by the counseling department. Henderson works with his colleagues to offer professional learning to the staff with student- and teacher-friendly lessons and resource materials. He also is trained as an International Baccalaureate counselor, which has led him to advise all students about rigorous coursework.

Henderson, who grew up in Phenix City, Ala., holds the National Certified Counselor credential and is a Board Eligible National Certified School Counselor.

“Brent is a leader in every sense of the word,” said fellow counselor Dianne Acuña Thompson. “Brent’s energy is contagious and his professionalism unsurpassed.”