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Nickajack's Nicole Pfleger Named National School Counselor of the Year

Having spent the last five years at the Smyrna elementary school, the lifelong Cobb resident was honored by the American School Counselor Association during a surprise assembly Thursday morning at the school.

Nicole Pfleger, professional school counselor at , has been named the top counselor in the United States by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). Pfleger is one of more than 400 applicants nationwide that competed for the award, which honors school counselors who work tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of their students, parents, and communities.

ASCA president Alan Burkhard and CCSD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa presented Nicole with the award during a surprise assembly Thursday morning in the school auditorium with her family, fellow staff and the Nickajack student body. Board of Education member Tim Stultz and members of the District’s leadership team were also on hand for the celebration.

"Oh, I've kind of been walking around in a fog all day,'' Pfleger told Patch Thursday afternoon. "It really was a surprise."

Pfleger will visit Washington, D.C. Feb. 1-3, 2012 with five other national finalists, in conjunction with National Counseling Week. The group will represent ASCA in meetings with members of Congress, tour the nation’s capital and attend a black-tie awards gala at Union Station.

"I'm very excited about that because there might be an opportunity to talk with some legislators,’’ the Marietta resident said. “It will be an opportunity to advocate for counselors and explain how we can contribute to schools and make a difference.”

A lifelong resident of Cobb County, Pfleger attended Wheeler High School, East Cobb Middle School, and Sope Creek Elementary School (where her mother Barbara Pfleger is also a teacher).

She earned her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Georgia, then went on to complete her master’s studies in School Counseling at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earn an educational specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Lincoln Memorial University.

Pfleger returned to her Cobb roots in 2006, joining Nickajack Elementary as a school counselor. Nickajack is a "National School of Character" and the school's mission is to "help all students become successful life-long learners and people of good character.''

"To help kids develop good social skils, coping schools, to become good citizens, it's been a great school for me,'' Pfleger said.

The School Counselor of the Year award is the highest national honor for professional school counselors. Candidates are judged on a set of criteria that includes creative school counseling innovations, effective programs, leadership skills and contribution to student advancement. Pfleger was nominated by Anthony Pearson, colleague and school counselor at Sky View Elementary.

Cobb County Schools will join in the celebration of National School Counseling Week February 6-10, 2012, honoring the contributions of Pfleger and her 270 fellow school counselors serving Cobb students and families. - The Cobb County School District contributed to this story.

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