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Maryland School Counselor of the Year

Brian Stewart, Counseling Department Chair at Catonsville High School, has been named Maryland School Counselor of the Year.

The Maryland School Counselor Association’s annual award honors counselors in the state who work to grow and improve their school counseling program. Counseling programs provide the best support to students, demonstrate leadership and collaboration with colleagues, and seek to continually advocate for the profession.

Stewart first worked as counselor at a PreK-8 school in North Carolina, then relocated to Baltimore, where he joined the counseling team at Woodlawn High School. Now he’s making a difference at Catonsville High as both a counselor and department chair.

In a recent blog post celebrating Stewart’s recognition, Baltimore County Public Schools shared a letter of nomination written by Catonsville High Principal Matthew Ames. Ames says Stewart has been instrumental in determining the present and future of the counseling program at the high school.

“Simply put, [Mr. Stewart] is the CHS team member who faculty, staff, department heads, and even administrators go to for solutions, ideas, and insights,” Ames said. “His vision for what a school counseling department should mean to a school has completely changed how we operate at CHS. During his time at CHS, he has instituted many invaluable programs and initiatives and has changed processes and services all for the better.”

We asked Stewart about his roots as a counselor, the importance of school counseling, especially during trying times such as these, and what the Maryland School Counselor of the Year honor means to him. His edited (for length) responses follow.

Why did you choose to become a school counselor?

I really dove into research (while studying psychology and human development), which gave me the option to go straight into a PhD program. Instead of spending the next decade crunching data, I realized that working directly with kids would allow me to do the most good. Being a school counselor allows me to reach more kids, including those who might not otherwise have access to counseling supports. This is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

What part/parts of your job have you found to be the most meaningful? 

The kids. I have worked with so many awesome kids who, with just a little bit of support, are able to springboard to the next level. I feel privileged to work with them and to see them make that jump.

Beyond demonstrating empathy implementing a dynamic array of counseling interventions, advocacy is crucial to the work we do each day. School counselors advocate for students as we empower them to persevere through incremental challenges and find the power of their own voice. In situations where systemic factors may be contributing to student hardship or inequity, counselors must advocate on behalf of our students. Occasionally, that means speaking up for ourselves as well.

Some of the highlights include resources to support PBIS initiatives, training to help faculty incorporate SEL and restorative discipline practices, college readiness programs for first generation and undocumented students, and many more.

From your perspective, why is school counseling so crucial?

Our job is to support and empower the students as they progress through daily obstacles and life changing milestones.

Students are constantly dealing with a wide range of academic, social, or personal issues. These challenges can be significant at times, indicating a clear need for help. Sometimes they appear minor. It’s easy for an adult to write off a child’s issue as fleeting, insignificant, or something they’ll simply “get over”, but it’s their perspective that counts. Regardless of the issue, our job is to help them process it, make meaning, and find a way to move forward.

The goal isn’t to simply get them through one situation, but to help students develop into resilient, confident, and more empathic adults.

Are there one or two counseling success stories that come to mind?

I determine “success” as anything that helps a student grow, mature, find clarity, or make any sort of progress in the “right direction”. For that reason, I tend to focus on the small, meaningful victories, which typically fly under the radar. While our impact can be difficult to quantify at times, it’s usually easy to see.

Over the past 8 years, a ton of cases have hit me in the chest. Having our seniors earn $14 million in scholarships is great, but it doesn’t compare to seeing a kid submit their first college application in March. Especially, when that student is homeless, orphaned, undocumented, or is someone who never considered themselves to be “college material”. I am so proud of everything our kids have achieved because of the work we did with them. Regardless of the extent I’ve supported a given student, I make sure to emphasize their ownership of any success.

What does it mean to you being named Maryland School Counselor of the Year?

It is an incredible honor just to be nominated for this award. Especially when I consider the other amazing counselors throughout BCPS and Maryland, who go above and beyond every day. Aside from my one-on-one work with kids, a lot of my success is due to the steady exchange of ideas and resources with colleagues across the field.

While implementing flashy programs never hurts, my strengths lie in an ability to build relationships with kids, maintain an adaptive skill set of counseling techniques, and develop systems of channeling the support where it’s needed. Hopefully, this means the work I’ve done is making a difference.



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