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Elizabeth Kanagawa Named 2021 Michigan School Counselor of the Year

Elizabeth Kanagawa

Spring Arbor University alumna Elizabeth Kanagawa has been named the 2021 Michigan School Counselor of the Year by the Michigan School Counselor Association. Kanagawa has been a school counselor for nine years and currently serves at Patrick Henry Middle School, in the Woodhaven-Brownstown School District in Woodhaven, Michigan. Kanagawa earned both her bachelor’s (2006) and master’s (2011) degrees at SAU. 

The School Counselor of the Year award honors professionals who devote their careers to serving as advocates for the nation’s students and addressing their academic and social/emotional development and college and career readiness. Award finalists were evaluated in the following areas: creative school counseling innovations, effective school counseling programs, leadership skills and contributions to student advancement. Kanagawa, along with other state School Counselor of the Year winners, will be considered for National School Counselor of the Year. 

Kanagawa says she is “very humbled” to be in this position and “blessed to have these skills” that allow her to help children in her district and community.

“During the 2018-2019 school year, Patrick Henry Middle School received the district honor of being named a RAMP [Recognized ASCA Model Program] school. This is due in no small part to the leadership, accountability and outstanding professionalism of Mrs. Elizabeth “Betsy” Kanagawa,” says Patrick Henry Middle School Principal Mathew Salah. “This professional is a true testament to and embodiment of the mission and vision of the ASCA [American School Counselor Association]. She has created and cultivated a data-driven, outcomes-based program that takes into account the whole-child approach.”

“Elizabeth is a natural leader and effective advocate at Patrick Henry,” says school social worker Patrice Barden, LLMSW. “She is very active in the school’s daily functioning. She not only supports our students, but she supports administration, staff and parents graciously. She exudes enthusiasm in her work daily and often presents fresh new ideas on ways to reach students and advance counseling services. She also holds a high level of experience, knowledge and insight that several staff look to for guidance, often including myself.”

“You will not find a more dedicated school counselor than Betsy Kanagawa anywhere!” says a Patrick Henry community partner. “Betsy continually seeks to stretch the boundaries of possibilities in regards to ensuring that students do not go unnoticed. She implemented an innovative strategy called “Minute Meetings” in order to touch base with every single student in her building. She and a coworker met with each student in the school for one minute (a lofty goal in the eyes of other school counselors/social workers) and asked them important questions related to their overall mental health. By doing so, she was able to identify students who were most in need of support. Betsy goes above and beyond every day, and she deserves to be recognized for her outstanding contributions!”

“We are so excited about the great work that Elizabeth is doing and how strongly she has engaged in the lives of her students in such innovative ways,” says SAU Vice President of Academic Affairs Carol Green. “Spring Arbor University’s faculty are extremely proud to count her among the alumni of our undergraduate and Master of Counseling programs.”