School Counselor Spotlight in Honor of National Counseling Week: Bernadette Brown

In celebration of National Counseling Week, ACPS is shining the spotlight on Bernadette Brown, a seventh-grade counselor at George Washington Middle School.

Brown came to ACPS three years ago from South Carolina, where she earned her educational specialist degree with a concentration in counselor education from the University of South Carolina and went on to launch her counseling career.

Her early work was in children’s services and handling child abuse cases in New York City. As part of this work, Brown met with a school counselor and it turned out to be a transforming experience. Through this meeting, she discovered a way that she could reach more kids and have more meaningful relationships with them. Within a year she moved to South Carolina to attend school and embark on this new chapter in her career.

Brown loves working with middle school children. It’s a nice balance between elementary and high school where kids are beginning to find themselves.

“I love it! I always want the best for kids. I love what I do so it’s enjoyable. When you’ve been working with a student for a long time and the light bulb goes off and you see that happening. It’s indescribable. Just seeing it click in their faces,” said Brown.

For Brown there is no typical day for a school counselor. She and her colleagues spend a good deal of their time outside of their offices, meeting with students and teachers, observing in classrooms, and running small group counseling sessions. They are also actively engaged with grade-level and elective teachers, school administrators and parents, and they meet with each of their students individually several times throughout the year.

Brown is part of a two-person grade-level counseling team – there is a team for each grade – and values her relationship with her colleagues.

“We all work together well and help each other out and that makes a major difference in what we do,” said Brown.

To be successful in this role, Brown says, flexibility, time management, and excellent communication and relationship building skills are key. Knowing and understanding that everyone has their own path, students and teachers alike, is really important.

In addition to their counseling roles, team members are also involved in other school programs. Brown is an onsite AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) coordinator and others work with the WEB middle school transition program and Best Buddies, for example.

The team is especially proud to have recently been recognized as one of only 600 schools in the United States to be designated a ‘Model Program’ by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) for their comprehensive program and exemplary commitment to its students.  It’s the first national designation for counseling in the history of Alexandria City Public Schools.

When she’s not in school, Brown loves to read, cook, and travel. Her favorite author is Toni Morrison and her favorite destination Rome, where Dan Brown’s novel, Angels and Demons, served as a road map for her exploration the sculptures of one of her favorite artists, Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Remember to thank your school counselor this week!

ACPS, George Washington, Middle Schools