The Penobscot Times

Old Town school counselor receives lifetime achievement award

OLD TOWN, Maine — Leonard Middle School counselor Tracey O’Connell received a lifetime achievement award from the Maine School Counselor Association last week for her work with Maine students. 

The organization awarded O’Connell the prize during a surprise virtual assembly at LMS on Friday, Feb. 5. 

O’Connell has worked as a counselor for 27 years — 18 of which she spent at LMS. Previously, O’Connell was a kindergarten teacher and worked for libraries in children’s programming. 

The lifetime achievement award from the Maine School Counselor Association is awarded to a counselor who has been in the field more than 10 years, has made a positive impact on students and the profession and demonstrates leadership, advocacy and professionalism in their work. 

LMS Principal Gert Nesin nominated O’Connell for the award. “[O’Connell] is a caring and skilled professional who continuously updates her knowledge and practices while building on her considerable contributions to students, the school and the profession,” Nesin wrote in the nomination letter. 

Additionally, Nesin noted O’Connell’s various commitments to the school and students. Outside of teaching weekly classes, O’Connell leads the school’s garden club, civil rights team and the Operation Breaking Stereotypes group. She is a member of the LMS leadership team, the parent advisory council and the attendance team. 

“Most of all, Tracey cares deeply about the students and her colleagues,” Nesin said. “She supports, negotiates, consoles, guides and directs as appropriate to the situation. I am grateful daily to have her on our team.” 

Former LMS Principal Jen Cyr shared Nesin’s sentiments of O’Connell’s leadership. “Without question, Mrs. O’Connell is a remarkable teacher, school counselor, team leader and student advocate. She has transformed the middle level counseling program, is a proven innovator, and has been honored by RSU 34 with an ‘Awesome Staff Award.’ 

“Behind that gentle countenance is a spirited warrior who fiercely protects her students and fully engages in a shared leadership model.” 

Jon Doty, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said he was tremendously fortunate and proud to have worked with O’Connell for the past 20 years. 

“Tracey could not be more dedicated to our students and community,” he said. “It gave me great joy on Friday to be part of honoring someone who’s worked so hard and been so impactful for our students.”

O’Connell said she was honored to receive the award and that school counselors are committed to supporting academic achievement, career planning and social-emotional development to help students become productive, contributing members of society. 

 “I am lucky to have a job in a profession that is a passion. My life work supporting our future, our children and their families is something I take very seriously.”

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