Article updated at 6:12 p.m. Monday, Feb. 7:
National School Counseling Week kicked off Monday by honoring a Lawrence school district staff member. Sunset Hill Elementary counselor Amanda Atkins received the 2022 Kansas Counselor of the Year award in a ceremony complete with a colorful floral bouquet and a visit from Piper, a therapy dog, according to a news release from the district.
Selected on the criteria of school counseling innovations, effective counseling programs, leadership/advocacy skills and contributions to student achievement, Atkins was presented the award by Hannah Kemble, of the Kansas School Counselor Association. Kemble was accompanied by therapy dog Piper.
“This is the most amazing part. This counselor was nominated by a parent. That doesn’t often happen,” said Kemble, who is a school counselor in Topeka’s Auburn-Washburn school district. “This parent reached out to us early in the year and said, ‘Listen, I have this amazing counselor. She is my child’s rock, and she needs to be recognized for it.'”
On Atkins’ district webpage, the counselor said students are welcome to speak with her about anything. “Students know my nickname is Miss Ladybug because I’m a lady they can talk to if something is bugging them.”
Atkins said she felt honored to work with “such wonderful kids, parents and staff members at Sunset Hill.” She said social-emotional learning and mental health supports were critical needs in all schools as the COVID-19 pandemic had shown.
“People are starting to see now just how important our role is and how any mental health professional roles are in the school. So we just keep advocating,” Atkins said in a phone interview.
Kemble celebrated Atkins’ “innovative sparkle” in comments shared by colleagues: “Amanda’s unwavering support of families and staff is unconditional and undeniably perceptive. Simply stated, she knows what you need and when you need it. With a humble heart, Amanda unpacks the strengths of others, enabling them to recognize the uniqueness in themselves and to find the sparkle in others.”
Atkins joined the district in 2016 and served Sunset Hill and New York Elementary schools for two years. She has supported students, school families and staff as the full-time counselor at Sunset Hill for four years.