02/11/11 — Counselor, students honored

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Counselor, students honored

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 11, 2011 1:46 PM

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Angie Rains, counselor at Rosewood Middle School, accepts an award for being Wayne County Public Schools' Counselor of the Year. Four students were also honored for overcoming obstacles during the school year.

A school counselor who coordinated food and clothing drives, organized the district's first middle school career fair and is leading an anti-bullying campaign at her school was named Wayne County Public Schools' Counselor of the Year on Thursday.

Angie Rains of Rosewood Middle School was "shocked" by the announcement from the Wayne County School Counselors Association.

She said she hadn't expected to win, but turned out because she enjoys seeing the student recipients announced each year.

It had been an especially hectic day, she said, kicked off when her cup of coffee spilled on a colleague's calendar. From there, it had one thing after another -- meetings, a student or parent in crisis -- pretty much a typical day in the life of a counselor.

"Some days are just beyond your control," she said, before thanking her fellow counselors. "There's so many of you that I admire.

"We love this job but it's a challenge. We do the best with the resources that we have."

Rosewood principal, Mary Kay James, credited Mrs. Rains with being a dedicated, hardworking counselor who delivers high quality services to the students.

"Mrs. Rains works effortlessly with the students and staff at Rosewood Middle, as well as those across the district," she said.

Four students were also recognized for having overcome obstacles to do well in school. Educators from two elementary schools and one each from middle and high schools in the county shared stories of their nominees.

Timothy Dortch, a kindergartner at North Drive Elementary School, has worked hard to adjust to the physical challenges associated with Type 1 diabetes -- including giving himself five to six insulin shots a day, frequent insulin level checks and monitoring what he can eat -- said his counselor, Troy Harris.

"He has a good understanding, he doesn't cheat by eating candy, and maintaining a positive attitude when dealing with the shots and all the side effects of his disease," Harris said.

Timothy also "gets aggravated when others keep him from learning," Harris said, and aspires to one day become a teacher or a lawyer.

The other elementary school recipient came from Spring Creek Elementary School, where first-grade teacher Debbie Turner praised her student, Kevin Vasquez-Reyes.

"Life for Kevin is anything but easy, yet he continues to strive to make it better," Ms. Turner said. "Kevin's father was killed when he was 4 years old. His mom works 12 hours a day."

He rises every morning at 5 to help his younger brothers ready for school, she said, and has served as "man of the house," teaching his siblings to speak English and being an interpreter for his mother.

The 6-year-old is also a good student, his teacher said, always taking a book outside to read on the playground, as well as being very compassionate to his classmates.

"He will tell you that he must study so that he can go to college," Ms. Turner said.

The Mount Olive Middle School student recipient also had a tragic story to share.

Mack Beard, counselor at the school, summed up Celeste Flores' journey with one word -- perseverance.

In March of last year, he said, the school had three mothers involved in car accidents over just a few days. Two of them died, one of whom was Celeste's mother.

"Maria Flores (was) one of the most supportive parents you could ask for," Beard recalled.

The school tried to offer support to the family, he said, which also included Celeste's siblings who had previously gone to MOM. Their biggest support, though, Beard added, was from the solid family bond.

"There were very few days that Celeste comes in my room without a beautiful smile on her face," said one of her eighth-grade teachers, Nana Strickland. "She's ready to learn ... always puts her best foot forward. She's always ready to help others, encouraging others to do better.

"She's just a great girl with a wonderful spirit."

Keith Wray of Charles B. Aycock High School also faced many challenges that started out when he was born prematurely, suffering intellectual and social disabilities. In high school, he began having "episodes" that negatively affected his ability to focus in the classroom and complete his work, said counselor Gladys Diggs.

Through medication and the support of teachers and counselors, Keith was able to make up his work, complete his exams and even his graduation project.

"He continues to improve and has done well in his classes," Ms. Diggs said. "Keith is a mid-year graduate which means that he has completed his high school education early -- a true testament to self-will."

Stories like the ones told during the ceremony are representative of what counselors in the district see, and deal with, on a daily basis, said Dr. Steve Taylor, schools superintendent.

"It's just so rewarding to see the work and see what these kids persevered to get the job done," he said. "I have said to principals and to teachers, beginning teachers, when you walk into a classroom and kids act differently or act out, we might want to look at the home situation or find what's causing them to act out."

Every job in the district is important, Taylor said, but certainly the counselors have a unique and challenging role.

"You may be the one person that keeps that student in school ... helps the parents work through the issues," he said. "We admire and appreciate what you do."