Earlier this month, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent John O’Brien was recognized as the Advocate of the Year at a statewide school counselor conference.
After he delivered a presentation to a group of school counselors a part of the Alaska School Counselor Association, O’Brien was “surprised” when the association recognized him as their Advocate of the Year, a Nov. 21 press release from the school district said.
“This recognition by our State’s School Counselors is perhaps one of the most meaningful awards that I have received in my career as a professional educator,” O’Brien said in the press release. “Our school counselors play such a vital role in the social and emotional well-being of our students. They build capacity in our schools by assisting our teachers, support staff, and school administrators to understand the importance of educating the whole child.”
Skyview Middle School counselor Natalie Kant wrote the nomination for O’Brien. Kant has been working for the district for 30 years, 16 of those years as a school counselor.
“Throughout my time with KPBSD, I have seen Superintendent O’Brien always support school counselors,” Kant said in the release.
She said that when O’Brien worked as the director of secondary education he ensured “counselors’ voices were heard” by working on removing non-counseling duties from counselor’s plates.
“The Advocate of the Year award recognizes a special individual or group for their assistance in furthering the mission of school counselors in Alaska,” the Alaska School Counselor Association wrote on their Facebook page. “The Advocate of the Year may have developed or implemented a new program that affects the well-being of students and staff; they may have initiated improvement in counseling services; or they may have provided outstanding opportunities for the professional growth of counselors. Whether an administrator, community group, or other individual in or out of the school environment, the recipient of this award represents true advocacy for our profession.”