Sharon McWhorter thought it would be just another day. The South Forsyth High School lead guidance counselor was called into the school's learning center by the principal for a counseling meeting with her peers.
"I walked in and the tables all had tablecloths and there were balloons and there was a cake … it was such a surprise,” she said.
The special ceremony Feb. 10 was for McWhorter, who was crowned the Forsyth County school system’s counselor of the year.
"She was the unanimous choice," said Susan Atkins, the system’s director of student support services. "What makes her outstanding is she reaches beyond the school … and in her school, she's very effective with her students and their families."
McWhorter began her career as a teacher, spending 18 years in the classroom. Her next 21 years would be in counseling, including the past three as South’s lead counselor.
"I cannot imagine myself in any other field,” she said. “It's certainly a calling, it's a passion.
"I believe I was recognized for the work that all counselors do to advance students' academic success … as a representative to all the counseling professionals, and I feel very strongly about that."
McWhorter has been with Forsyth County Schools for seven years, having served in Gwinnett County prior to that.
"At South, she has reinvigorated the whole department," Atkins said. "She set the tone to meet the exceptional expectations they have at South."
In addition, McWhorter has served as a consultant for the state and helped with dual enrollment, career preparation and college entrance strategies. She's had a focus on helping students who've learned English as a second language and has worked with the state on training curriculum for guidance counselor-related programs.
South Principal Jeff Cheney said McWhorter was a valuable asset at North and West Forsyth high schools before she came to South.
"As [South’s] head counselor, she has played a major role in developing our SAT/ACT preparatory programs, as well as tirelessly working with our families on college admissions and post-secondary planning," Cheney said.