MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Washington High School Counselor Jennifer Stuntz is the West Virginia High School Counselor of the Year. The announcement came Thursday evening during the West Virginia School Counselor Association (WVSCA) 2023 annual conference in Morgantown. Each year the WVSCA names one winner from each grade level, elementary, middle, and high. Schools across the state nominate counselors who compete for the recognition. Stuntz said being recognized is a career highlight.
"This is all quite surreal," Stuntz said. "It's not really about me, it's about what I am doing for the students and the school and the community."
Stuntz is a National Board Certified Counselor and serves as the counseling department chair at WHS. She has been a counselor for nine years, five of those at WHS. Stuntz said that after a colleague nominated her, she had to complete a questionnaire. That, she said, made her realize that her relationships with her students are what impact her most.
"It's not the graduation rates, it's not the individual meetings with the students, it's the stuff outside of school and the stuff I can tell I've really made a difference."
Stuntz added that establishing those relationships is more important than ever, especially following the pandemic. Student needs have expanded beyond academics and now include significant social-emotional support. Stuntz said working with students who face issues like anxiety and depression takes a lot of collaboration and teamwork.
"It's definitely changed," she said. "I've seen the before and after, and it takes an emotional toll on us [counselors], so we as a team have had to bond so that we can better serve our students."
Stuntz said one of her biggest supporters is Jefferson County School Superintendent Dr. Bondy Shay Gibson-Learn. "This award is for her. There were so many times I wanted to quit, and she encouraged me. She has been an instrumental leader in what I do, and I cannot thank her enough."