Julia Bush was moved to tears when reflecting on high school mentor and volleyball coach Grace Hutchinson, who inspired her to become an educator.
“I think educators know how much they impact kids, but when kids come back to thank you, that really shows,” Bush said.
Bush, a counselor at Henderson’s Burkholder Middle School, was honored by the American School Counselor Association on Feb. 1 in Washington, D.C., as the 2019 Nevada school counselor of the year.
Nevada School Counselor Association president Kristin Barnson said Bush was nominated by colleague Kenneth Basinger, a counselor specialist with the Clark County School District.
Barnson said Bush’s nomination rose to the top of the pile.
Bush, originally from Norwalk, Ohio, moved to Nevada in 1996 to work as an elementary school counselor in Boulder City. After 12 years, she took her current job. This is her 12th year at Burkholder.
Bush said she’d wanted to be a physical education teacher, but Hutchinson encouraged her to instead study general and special education. She got her master’s degree from the University of Phoenix in 1994.
Bush is the only counselor at Burkholder; the school plans to hire a second, she said.
“We are supposed to be there for all of the kids, not just the ones who are troubled,” Bush said.
The American School Counselor Association, a nonprofit based in Virginia that helps provide resources to school counselors, recommends schools maintain a ratio of 250 students to one counselor. The group estimates the average student-to-school counselor ratio in the U.S. is 464-to-1.
Bush said the hardest part of her job is, “you always want to spend more time; you want to have the ability to offer more and do more. There is always work to be done.”
Among Bush’s projects have been Jaguars Eating Together, or JAG, which is aimed at ensuring students don’t eat alone at school. She also launched the school’s Where Everyone Belongs, or WEB, program to match sixth-graders with eighth-graders to show them around school and help.
Barnson called Bush “a driving influencer” who “builds relationships with students on campus.”
Barnson said Burkholder is the first middle school CCSD counselor to be recognized in Washington, D.C.
In Washington, Bush was among 40 honored counselors. She said they didn’t have time to learn one another’s names, so they went by state names. Bush can now say she once was referred to as “Miss Nevada.”
The counselors heard from Dr. Jill Biden, second lady of the United States from 2009-17. She presented the ASCA’s 2019 national school counselor of the year, Brian Coleman of Chicago.
Bush washonored March 2 at the Nevada School Counselor Association awards breakfast, as part of the association’s state conference March 1-2.