Deptford Middle School counselor Laura Fortson-Williams was honored at the township board of education meeting on Jan. 24 for winning the state’s School Counselor of the Year Award.
Fortson-Williams’ family members – including her husband and son – attended the meeting, as did school Principal John Schilling.
“I want you to know that school counseling is a unique space in education, where it looks like we just do scheduling, we just do academic advisement, but we do so much more,” she said. “We are part social worker, part parent, part school leader, part advocate, part event planner, part researcher, part teacher, coach, confidant, supporter and part friend.
“We are all of this because we serve our students.”
Fortson-Williams was chosen for the award from the thousands of other counselors in the state. According to the New Jersey School Counselor Association (NJSCA), the award recognizes counselors throughout the state’s elementary, middle and high schools who run a “top-notch, school counseling program” at those levels.
“She came over this year, made the transition of joining the (counseling) department, and ran with it like you would not believe,” Schilling noted. “Laura Fortson-Williams is one of the most caring and dedicated educators and counselors that I have ever met, and I have been in this business, this profession, for 28 years.
“She has provided students with an unparalleled level of support and is always seeking out new ways to help them,” he added. “She is one to quickly put aside everything for anyone who needs her help. “Laura remains not only a professional but present in the moment for her students and staff.”
Fortson-Williams also received a plaque from the board and a resolution dedicated to her.
“She is a gift to us as a district,” said Acting Superintendent Kevin Kanauss. “She is also, more importantly, a gift to the students, and that’s what we appreciate and love about her the most. She’s there for the students, she’s there for us as a district, and we can’t thank you enough.”
After Fortson-Williams spoke, she shook the hands of board members, including newcomer Frank Scambia, who was sworn in at the beginning of the board meeting. He missed the Jan. 4 reorganization session.
Since Fortson-Williams won the state award, she is now eligible for a national version.
“… And so if and when that happens,” she said, “it will be with Deptford pride.”