White House Honors Gonzaga Alumnus

January 30, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Cory Notestine, a counselor at Alamosa High School in Alamosa, Colorado, and a 2008 graduate of Gonzaga University’s Master of Arts in School Counseling Program, was honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony Jan. 30 for being named the 2015 national School Counselor of the Year.

“I know when I started my career,” Notestine said at the ceremony, “I wanted nothing more than to be an advocate for those without a voice, and to collaborate to make systemic changes in my school to provide a more equal educational environment.”

The award, presented by the American School Counselor Association, based in Alexandria, Virginia, honors the professionals who devote their careers to serving as advocates for the nation’s students and addressing their development and readiness for college and careers.

“Being recognized as the School Counselor of the Year is quite an honor – not only for myself, but for all students we serve at Alamosa High School through the Counseling Office,” Notestine said. “I believe it validates the programs we offer, and recognizes our ability to advocate for change and access to programs on behalf every student in the building.”

Notestine said he often reflects on his time at Gonzaga and credits much of what he knows about the field of school counseling and how to implement comprehensive programs to Mary Brown, former director of Gonzaga’s Master of Arts in School Counseling Program, and the other faculty in the program.

“They instilled the importance of excellence in the work that I do on behalf of students, and the necessity to advocate effectively in support of those marginalized and without a voice,” Notestine said. “I’m forever grateful to the department for providing an educational environment that has allowed me to flourish in my chosen career.”

Mary Brown, who retired as director of the program in 2013, taught Notestine and served as his advisor and internship supervisor.

“I am so proud of Cory for who he is and what he has accomplished,” said Brown. “He is an esteemed and adored change-agent on behalf of students and counseling programs. I knew he would do great things because he did them in the classroom and in his internship. Cory is an extraordinary individual who relates like a regular guy – no wonder people flock to him and embrace his ideas.”

Although he’s been a school counselor since 2008, Notestine was new to Alamosa High School for the 2012-2013 school year. Julie Ann Mordecai said Notestine has led a cultural shift at Alamosa High’s counseling department.

“My son was a senior last year, and he commented on the changes that were evident in the programs provided by the counseling department under Mr. Notestine’s leadership,” Mordecai said. “I served on the high school accountability committee as well as on the counseling advisory board, and I was able to observe Mr. Notestine’s level of excellence.”

Jeff Sherrill, a member of the School Counselor of the Year Selection Committee, said he recognized in Notestine a deep understanding and passion for school counseling and an ability to articulate the value of school counselors for all grade levels.

“Cory’s vision for his students is reflected in his initiatives that have successfully connected a unique student population to college and career opportunities, and his diverse experience of serving as a school counselor in both large urban and rural schools has shaped his understanding of the needs and challenges school counselors have on a national scale,” said Sherrill, associate director of the National Association of Student Councils at the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

“Cory has a passion for students,” said Heidi Morgan, a counselor at Alamosa High School. “He takes the time to relate to each of his students on a personal level. I have seen several students’ lives changed because of him. He has a way of reaching students when no one else can.”

Adriana Wissel, the current director of Gonzaga’s Master of Arts in School Counseling Program, said the honor reflects the program’s quality.

“We are delighted to have an alumnus of our program receive this tremendous honor. We believe this speaks, in part, to the high quality program we offer to individuals who wish to serve their communities as contemporary school counselors; those who intentionally support the personal/social, academic, and career development of each student,” Wissel said. “We educate our school counselors-in-training on the importance of attending to the whole person and creating genuine relationships with all students and families.”

The School Counselor of the Year winner and finalists were judged on their creative school counseling innovations, effective school counseling programs, leadership skills and contributions to student advancement.

The ASCA is a nonprofit organization that promotes student success by expanding the image and influence of professional school counseling through leadership, advocacy, collaboration and systemic change. For more information about the ASCA, visit its website.

For more information about Gonzaga’s Master of Arts in School Counseling Program visit its website or contact Adriana Wissel, program director, at (509) 313-3851.