Michele Dowd knew she wanted to live a life of service, and found her calling in Etowah High School’s counseling office.
Her favorite quote speaks to this mission: “A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I loved in, or the kind of car I drove, but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child,” (Forest E. Witcraft).
And on Friday, March 31, 2017, Ms. Dowd was surprised with an award recognizing the difference she is making in the lives of thousands of children at Etowah High School as a school counselor: Cherokee County School District 2017 Counselor of the Year.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower presented her with the honor in front of a packed crowd assembled for a student-staff basketball game fundraiser for Relay for Life. The presentation, which also was attended by her husband, Billy, and other family and friends, and reception that followed were sponsored by Northside Hospital Cherokee, a CCSD Partner.
Dr. Hightower praised Ms. Dowd as “one of Etowah’s finest,” noting he’s especially proud to see one of his own former students be so successful and respected by her colleagues.
“Michele knows her why – she sees it in the faces of the kids she serves every day,” Dr. Hightower said. “Whether she’s providing them a shoulder to lean on in tough times or a helping hand in finding their career path, Ms. Dowd is all in and approaches her work with professionalism and passion.”
The award process begins with each Innovation Zone (high school and feeder elementary and middle schools) selecting a Counselor of the Year. Applications from these honorees then are considered by a panel of retired educators and community leaders, who select the CCSD Counselor of the Year.
In addition to Ms. Dowd for the Etowah Innovation Zone (IZ), the other Zone winners are: Cherokee IZ, Connie Hatcher, Canton ES STEM Academy; Creekview IZ, Angel Jane, Avery ES; River Ridge IZ, Phillip Crane, Mill Creek MS; Sequoyah IZ, Michelle Martin, Dean Rusk MS; and Woodstock IZ, Brent Harrison, Woodstock ES. They all will be recognized by the School Board and Superintendent of Schools at the April 20 School Board meeting.
Ms. Dowd is a graduate of Kennesaw State University, where she earned her bachelor of science in psychology, and University of West Alabama, where she earned her master of science in continuing education – school guidance and counseling.
She joined Etowah High School 2014, after serving one year as counselor for CCSD’s Polaris Evening Program and as a counseling intern at Avery Elementary School and a substitute teacher districtwide.
Among her roles at Etowah, Ms. Dowd provides students with a wide variety of counseling services, coordinates the Advance Placement (AP), hospital homebound and foreign exchange programs and serves on the school’s Leadership Team.
“When students come into my office during a personal crisis and can leave feeling better or with some resolution, then I know I have done my job,” said Ms. Dowd, who also is an active volunteer with youth at Christ Community Church in Cumming. “I love celebrating with students when they come into my office with exciting news or they have just been admitted into the college of their dreams. I want to be in the trenches with them during the valley moments of their life and celebrate with them on the mountaintop of their successes.”
Principal Dr. Bob Eddy said Ms. Dowd’s “core value” of service makes her an exceptional counselor and leader in her profession.
“No matter the responsibility,” he said, “Michele stays grounded in her service to students.”
And back to that favorite quote, which she has hanging up in her kitchen, as its message has come full circle for Ms. Dowd.
“When I started my tenure as a school counselor,” she said, “I thought I would be the one making a difference in the lives of students, and I hope I have so far, but little did I know that they and their families would be the ones to leave a lasting imprint on my heart.”