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Stephanie Nelson ’20PHD Named 2023 Wake County Public School System School Counselor of the Year

Stephanie Nelson

For 17 years, Stephanie Nelson ’20PHD has worked as a school counselor at Garner Magnet High School. But in all those years, she never had a day like the one when administrators, members of the counseling team and her husband surprised her with the announcement that she had been named the 2023 Wake County Public School System School Counselor of the Year. 

“I felt extremely honored, humbled and even shed a few tears,”  said Nelson, a graduate of the NC State College of Education’s Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Policy and Human Development counseling and counselor education concentration

In receiving the award, Nelson was specifically recognized for her efforts to implement and sustain a data-driven and comprehensive counseling program that addresses outcomes and ensures all students achieve success. 

Nelson and her counseling team use longitudinal and previous-year data at the beginning of each school year to identify trends and achievement opportunities, and plan interventions to serve all student groups. 

For example, when Nelson and her team noticed male Latino students were failing more courses required to graduate than their peers, they planned and implemented an academic support small group for those students and also met individually with them monthly to provide support. By the end of the fourth quarter, none of the students were failing the courses required for graduation. 

“The smiles on some of their faces after improving their grades and knowing they had a team of support in student services is what we all love to be part of,” Nelson said.

For Nelson, the goal is to use data to produce positive outcomes, while never losing sight of the individual.

“The data speaks for itself, but there is nothing like receiving a card or email from a student letting you know how you positively impacted them by being a supportive adult in the school building they can feel comfortable talking to,” Nelson siad.

When she was nominated as school counselor of the year, Nelson was required to submit an application packet, in which she described the impact the data-driven counseling program has had on students, as well as the impact earning her doctoral degree in the NC State College of Education had on her career.

“NC State prepared me for where I am today because I now consider myself a scholar-practitioner,” Nelson said. “There is no doubt I am a more skilled counselor now than before I graduated from the counselor education Ph.D. program.”