Kimberly Raymond won recognition as this year’s school counselor of the year, but said the award is bigger than her. The Leroy H. Smith School counselor said she accepts the award on behalf of all of the teachers and fellow school counselors from whom she has learned in her 14-year career.

The award is administered through the Maine School Counselor Association and presented to an exceptional school counselor each year. It has been given through the association, which has nearly 400 members, for over 15 years, according to Chairman Angela Avery.

She nominated Raymond after she showed leadership and creativity in reaching out to students through the coronavirus school shutdowns, Avery said. Raymond uses videos, surveys and does a weekly participation celebration to reach students and to help keep them engaged while learning from home.

While other counselors were trying to adjust to remote learning during the beginning of the pandemic, Raymond was developing new ways to reach students and teaching other counselors techniques that are still being used, Avery said.

Raymond was given the award at a surprise assembly that students watched remotely from home or their classrooms. She said she feels grateful to represent an important position within the public school system.

“It feels pretty powerful to be able to represent school counseling in the state of Maine, because the field itself and the profession has molded and changed a lot over the years,” she said. “So it’s kind of a powerful, overwhelming feeling, but I feel a lot of pride, and honored and humbled to just be recognized for a job that I love so much.”

School counselors play an important role for students who might be struggling at school, Avery said. Every student faces unique challenges and counselors can offer support directly, as well as putting students in touch with additional resources.

The biggest thing kids need is connection and relationship, Raymond said. If they trust her, they will reach out to her when they need to, though she admits that it has been tough during remote learning.

“I think the heart of the school counseling profession is relationships with students,” she said. “So developing connections and relationships with students so that they know they have someone to reach out to if they need to.”

Avery said Raymond is empathetic and a good listener, which are some of the aspects that make her a good counselor. She is energetic, upbeat and tries to find positivity in every situation, which makes her a good leader for school counselors.

Raymond is always growing and learning, Avery said, another quality of a good leader. She teaches complex issues, like social equity, to small children, and it is an inspiration to other counselors to follow their passion for the betterment of their students.

“I think other counselors can learn that, follow your passions and do what is important for you,” Avery said. “… follow that passion because it's only going to help the students in your building.”

Raymond hopes she can continue to inspire other counselors to reach their full potential so students can be more supported in school, she said. She hopes they know that they can make a difference in students’ lives.

She always wanted to work with children, she said, and it makes her happy to be in a profession that she feels passionate about and that she enjoys.

“I think every day that I come to work I feel like it's such a gift, because I feel like I have the best job ever, because I get to work with so many amazing students, and I just try to make the world better in my own way, you know, one day at a time,” she said. “… So I feel like the award is not really just about me. It’s about so much more than just me, but it's about what school counselors can do and what we can do together as a team to support students.”