From Contributor: Bradley Stanley

BEAUFORT – Veteran H.E. McCracken Middle School lead counselor Suzan Annette Ballard has been honored as 2018 South Carolina Middle School Counselor of the Year by the Palmetto State School Counselors Association.

The announcement was made during Saturday’s closing ceremony of the PSSCA Annual Conference in Myrtle Beach.  Ballard was nominated for the statewide award after being named as Beaufort County’s School Counselor of the Year in 2017.

“We knew when Ms. Ballard was selected as our district’s counselor of the year that she would be a strong representative at the state level, and this wonderful recognition is a tribute to her outstanding work and professionalism,” said Superintendent Jeff Moss.

All of Ballard’s 32 years in education have been at McCracken Middle School.  She has served as a school counselor for the past 13 years, and prior to that she worked 19 years as a Home Economics and Service Learning teacher.

Colleagues at McCracken said that Ballard had developed positive relationships with community agencies, improved the school’s career guidance program and guided the implementation of programs to help at-risk students.  One of those programs, “Back on Track,” focused on reducing the academic failure rate among students at the school.

“She’s the kind of team member who makes it easier to work on difficult days,” said Principal Jerry Henderson.  “My mother was a school counselor, so I set a pretty high bar in terms of a counselor’s performance.  Ms. Ballard goes above and beyond every day.”

A key challenge for Ballard was helping to manage McCracken’s transition two years ago from serving students in grades 8-9 to serving students in grades 6-8.  Henderson said that Ballard also has refined the way the school develops customized graduation plans for students as they prepare for high school.  In addition, Ballard has worked with the district office to improve the effectiveness of Naviance, a software program that lets students and their parents identify student strengths and interests and develop individual learning plans aligned to students’ goals.

Selina Denny of Bluffton said that Ballard was a tremendous asset to her during her school years – and Ballard also was her daughter’s counselor in middle school.  “As an adult, now I look back and I’m grateful to Ms. Ballard for all of the advice she was able to provide me with personal issues and to make sure I met my academic goals to become a successful adult,” Denny said.

In addition to its announcement of Ballard as 2018 Middle School Counselor of the Year, the PSSCA selected Lori Nelson (Paris Island Elementary, Greenville County) as Elementary School Counselor of the Year and Courtney Barber (Hanahan High, Berkeley County) as High School Counselor of the Year and overall School Counselor of the Year.

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Press Release submitted by: Jim Foster