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District names Forsyth County Counselors of the Year
Honors include one at each school level, one team
counselors WEB
Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Jeff Bearden stands with the three Counselors of the Year: Grace Savage, Forsyth Central High School; Tara Stiffler, Matt Elementary School; and Dawn Densmore, South Forsyth Middle School. - photo by For the Forsyth County News

Three educators were recently recognized for their positive influence on students by being named the 2017 Forsyth County Schools Counselors of the Year for their respective school level.

Tara Stiffler at Matt Elementary, Dawn Densmore at South Forsyth Middle and Grace Savage at Forsyth Central High were bestowed the honors for being “innovative and caring professionals,” according to Debbie Smith, director of student support services for the district.

“Tara Stiffler is a kind, caring conscientious educator who provides help, guidance and encouragement to students, parents, as well as teachers,” said Jamie Barnes, assistant principal at Matt. “[She] has a deep understanding of teaching and reaching the ‘whole child’ and the importance of social emotional learning.”

Barnes said Stiffler has been “instrumental” in the implementation of the 7 Mindsets program at the school.

Densmore is in her 15th year as a professional school counselor and said she strives “to advocate for my profession, to collaborate with stakeholders to create an exemplary comprehensive program, to grow as a leader and a member of my community, and to better myself as an individual so that I may serve as a superior advocate for our neighborhood population, families and children.”

“Everything I have ever done and continue to do as a school counselor is driven by my heartfelt passion for kids,” she said.

Savage said she prides herself in being a safe place for students to share their thoughts, fears, dreams, hurts and joys.

“Adolescence is inevitably a time of great change, and student can see these changes reflected in their friends, their families and even within their own sense of self,” she said. “It is my goal to support them; to not only listen to what they are saying but to hear what they are not, and to provide a space for them to feel supported and cared for as they process through their feelings.”

A counseling team —Kevin Harris and Diane Orado at Shiloh Point Elementary — was also honored this year to recognize the ability of these educators to work together to model collaboration and build positive relationships.

“Educators have a long history of closing doors and doing things their own way — the truth is that no industry succeeds in isolation,” Principal Derrick Hershey said. “Kevin and Diane are a model of true collaboration … They model how one can accomplish more and be far more effective and energized when you are willing to share ideas, ask for help and lean on others.”