Female Master Teachers sit at round table and talk.
Meet the Master Counselors

Meet the Master Counselors

The NYS Master Teacher Program network consists of outstanding teachers and counselors recognized for their dedication to professional growth and development. Master Teachers and Master Counselors are educational leaders committed to sharing best practices and to creating engaging and inspiring learning environments for all K-12 students as well as support for teacher and counselor preparation programs.

Click on the region to read short bios about the exceptionally talented and experienced Master Counselors in the network.

Capital Region
Central New York
Finger Lakes
Long Island
Mid-Hudson Region
Mohawk Valley
New York City
North Country
Southern Tier
Western New York
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Walter Benedict

Solvay Union Free School District

Walter Benedict is currently a Middle School Counselor in Solvay Union Free School District. He has been a School Counselor since 2015 and has worked across all grade levels K-12. Mr. Benedict earned his BA in Psychology from Le Moyne College as well as his MS and CAS in School Counseling from Syracuse University. Mr. Benedict has also received his National Counselor Certification from the National Board of Certified Counselors. In 2017 Mr. Benedict received the New York State School Counseling Association's Leadership Award, and in 2018 was named a recipient of the North Atlantic Region Association Emerging Leader Award. Mr. Benedict takes an active role in his school and community by being involved with many building and district wide committees. In addition to his work as a School Counselor, Mr. Benedict has also pursued professional publications and presentations and most recently worked as an adjunct Instructor for SUNY Oswego's Counseling and Psychological Services Department for the Fall 2023 semester. Outside of work, Mr. Benedict loves to get outdoors as much as possible (hiking, kayaking, camping, etc.). Mr. Benedict is very excited to begin this journey of connecting and growing with other professionals from all over the state!

Shelly Chizzonite

East Syracuse Minoa Central School District

Shelly Chizzonite earned her B.S. in Education from SUNY Geneseo and her Master of Science and Certificate of Advanced Study in Counseling Services from SUNY Oswego. Before beginning her career in education Mrs. Chizzonite worked in Human Services with adults with disabilities. She began her career as a School Counselor in 2005. Since 2007 she has served as the School Counselor at Woodland Elementary School in the East Syracuse Minoa Central School District. In 2020 Mrs. Chizzonite achieved the distinction of National Board Certified Counselor. Mrs. Chizzonite teaches social and emotional classroom lessons, provides individual and group counseling. She also consults with parents, teachers and administrators. She is enthusiastic about the continuation of Primary Project, a tier 2 social and emotional intervention at Woodland Elementary School. Mrs. Chizzonite presented on the topic of Primary Project at the New York State School Counselor Association Conference in November 2023. Mrs. Chizzonite serves in union leadership at the local level, as well as a political action coordinator for the statewide New York State United Teachers Union. Mrs. Chizzonite is a strong advocate for public education and mental health support in schools. In her free time, Mrs. Chizzonite enjoys spending time at Sandy Pond, traveling and planning her next adventures. She lives with her husband David and their sweet dog Denali. Mrs. Chizzonite is excited to collaborate with fellow School Counselors and eagerly anticipates the positive outcome this experience will have on her students, internship students and colleagues.

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Megan Gifford

Shenendehowa Central School District

Megan Gifford graduated cum laude from Siena College with a BA in Psychology and earned her MS in Guidance/Counseling from Russell Sage College. Mrs. Gifford began her career as a school counselor in 2006 and provides academic, college and career, and social-emotional counseling to students in grades 10-12 at Shenendehowa High School. She is a member of Shenendehowa's Instructional Study Team, the ASPIRE Alternative Education Team, and the NYS Seal of Civic Readiness Committee. Mrs. Gifford is a passionate advocate for equity, access, and inclusion for all students. She finds it deeply rewarding to work with students and considers it a privilege to play a role in their lives as they navigate high school and the transition to life beyond. Mrs. Gifford is dedicated to continuous learning and actively engages in ongoing professional development to grow as a school counselor. She is involved in a variety of professional organizations, including the Suburban Council School Counselors' Consortium, the Capital District Counseling Association, the New York State School Counselor Association, the American School Counselor Association, and the New York State Association for College Admission Counseling. Outside of her professional commitments, Mrs. Gifford enjoys spending quality time with her family and friends. As a NYS Master Counselor, Mrs. Gifford is excited to continue her professional growth, learn from and collaborate with fellow counselors, and connect students to meaningful opportunities.

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Jill Lastarza

Albany City School District

Jill Lastarza earned both her BA in Psychology and MS in Professional School Counseling from Russell Sage College in Troy, NY. Ms. Lastarza has been employed with Albany City School District since 2015 and has served as both a Transition Coordinator and School Counselor. In her current role as the District-Wide School Counselor, Ms. Lastarza works with students with disabilities, students who are homeschooled, students in the justice system, students in BOCES' Cooperative Virtual Learning Academy, and students in Albany High School's Night School, GED and Summer School programs. She currently works out of Harriet Gibbons Student Services Center and Albany High School. Ms. Lastarza is an active member of her school community, serving as a district-level trainer on Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guidelines and is a member of the district crisis response team which assists schools affected by tragedy. Outside of school, she enjoys spending time with family, friends, and colleagues. As a NYS Master Counselor, Ms. Lastarza is most looking forward to deepening content knowledge in school counseling practices and collaborating with both school counselors and STEM teachers in her region as well with school counselors outside her region.

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Jamie Miner

Rochester City School District

Jamie Miner is a dedicated professional with a commitment to student development and education. She holds a Master of Science in Education specializing in School Counseling from Long Island University, and continued her pursuit of excellence by obtaining a Certificate of Advanced Study in School Counseling from SUNY Brockport. With a career spanning back to 2008, Jamie has garnered extensive experience in diverse educational environments, ranging from elementary, to middle and high school settings. Recently, Jamie made a significant transition to Churchville-Chili Senior High School after dedicating 15 years of service to the Rochester City School District. Her tenure in the RCSD was marked by influential leadership roles. Serving as a Lead Mentor for new counselors and assuming the pivotal position of Lead Counselor within her building-level department, Jamie demonstrated her commitment to both guiding fellow professionals and enhancing counseling services. Her advocacy for educational programs is underscored by her completion of AVID and IB training, showcasing her dedication to promoting diverse learning opportunities for students. Jamie has been a staunch advocate for diversity and inclusion within the educational landscape. Her participation in diversity workshops, focusing on addressing disproportionality, exemplifies her commitment to fostering an inclusive educational environment. A member of the American School Counselor Association, Jamie continues to prioritize professional development. Her enthusiasm for personal growth and dedication to nurturing student development is reflected in her decision to join the Master Counselor Program, underscoring her unwavering commitment to excellence in counseling and education.

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Marguerite Opett

Brighton Central School District

Marguerite Opett earned her BS in Psychology from the accelerated Delta College at SUNY Brockport. She earned her MA in Psychology from SUNY Brockport and her MS in School Counseling from the University of Rochester. Marguerite comes from a long line of educators in her Irish ancestry who inspired her love of education. Mrs. Opett began her career as a crisis intervention specialist at Mt. Hope Family Center, a leader in evidence-based intervention and prevention services for children and families in the Rochester area. She transitioned to school counseling in 1998, earning tenure in the Rochester City School District. In 2001 she gained valuable "field research", staying home with her three daughters. She returned to school counseling in 2008, working at St. Kateri School and East Irondequoit until her transition to Brighton in 2017. She currently works at French Road Elementary School. In Brighton, Mrs. Opett helped to develop and implement the socio-emotional lessons in the classroom setting. Throughout her career, she has written grants for developing peer mediation programs, therapeutic arts/drama programs, and sensory walks. She serves on many committees including: Safety, Trauma Illness and Grief, Restorative Practices, MTSS and is a member of ASCA, NYSSCA and Psi Chi. Outside of school, Mrs. Opett enjoys spending time with her husband and three daughters, and using her calming strategies while watching the Buffalo Bills. She is very excited to be part of the inaugural Master Counselor program and looks forward to collaborating with other counselors and teachers.

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Jenny Konop

Northport-East Northport Union Free School District

Jenny Konop holds a BA in Anthropology from Brown University and an MS in School Counseling from Long Island University. She is a seasoned and highly accomplished school counselor who has worked at Northport High School since 2003. Mrs. Konop's career is defined by her student-centered approach, which earned her the prestigious American School Counselor Association New York State Counselor of the Year award in 2018. This accolade recognized her dedication to students and success in implementing a comprehensive, data-driven counseling program. Her innovative contributions have significantly advanced programs supporting students' career, personal/social, and academic development. In 2022, Assemblyman Keith Brown further recognized her contributions by naming her a Woman of Distinction for the Town of Huntington. As an educational leader, she has been active on a multitude of committees and initiatives as a tireless advocate for her students, driven by a deep desire to make a meaningful difference in their lives. She is a member of the Western Suffolk Counselors Association, the New York State School Counselor Association, and the American School Counselor Association. Additionally, her community involvement extends beyond her professional sphere, marked by her role as a charter member and past secretary for the Long Island Pride PTSA and as a volunteer youth soccer coach. She is an avid reader and fitness enthusiast who loves spending time with her family, gardening, and being outdoors. Mrs. Konop looks forward to collaborating with fellow NYS Master Counselors and embracing the extensive professional development opportunities within the program.

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Luis Barcelo

Pelham Union Free School District

Luis Barcelo earned his BA in Regional Studies from Columbia College, MA in Latin American Studies from SUNY Albany and a MS in School Counseling from Lehman College. Mr. Barcelo is a proud HEOP alumnus and began his professional life as a HEOP counselor. This experience motivated him to become a school counselor where he could assist a wider range of students. Mr. Barcelo began his secondary school career as a social studies teacher at Bronx Leadership Academy, but knew that he wanted to help students achieve their post-secondary dreams. In 2003 he moved into his role as a counselor. Mr. Barcelo is currently at Pelham Memorial High School where he continues to help students navigate high school as they prepare to embark onto the next stage of their lives. He is also the faculty advisor to the Black Empowerment Club where he supports students as they address the various feelings around cultural and racial identity. He enjoys his role as the liaison to The Teacher Center of Central Westchester where he can help in the professional development of classroom instructors and school counselors. Outside of his roles at Pelham Memorial High School, Mr. Barcelo is a counselor educator at Lehman College, served on the executive boards of NYSACAC and WPRCA, is the proud child of immigrants, eldest sibling to wonderful sisters and brothers, father to two amazing children, and partner of an inspiring leader in her field.

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Rachel Birsner

Poughkeepsie City School District

Rachel Murphy Birsner earned her BS in Human Development from Cornell University, Master's of Education in Counseling from Boston University, and Master's in School Administration from UMass Boston. Ms. Birsner began her career as a Middle School Counselor in the Boston area in 1995. She returned to NY to begin her work in the Poughkeepsie School District in 2004, and has called Poughkeepsie home ever since. After 12 years at Poughkeepsie High School, she went back to her middle school roots. Ms. Birsner is now a Counselor at Poughkeepsie Middle School, focused on Social Emotional Learning. Her current role includes working with Grade 6, 7 and 8 students in all aspects of their development. She is actively involved in MTSS, Threat Assessment, PBIS and grade level teams. Ms. Birsner served on the Board of Teen Closet Inc, raising funds to stock closets providing basic hygiene items for students. Ms. Birsner is a proud member of ASCA, NYSSCA, and the Dutchess County Counseling Association. Her career has been inspired by her mother's work as an Adolescent Psychiatric Nurse at a local hospital, where Rachel first recognized the impact one individual can have on the life of a child. When she's not at work, Ms. Birsner loves spending time with her family (when her teenage children will indulge her) and reading fiction that does NOT involve the lives of teenagers. As a NYS Master Counselor, Ms. Birsner looks forward to learning from her Master Counselor colleagues, and bringing that experience and energy back to her Poughkeepsie students.

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Angella Maggie Gershonovitz

Nyack Union Free School District

Angella Maggie Gershonovitz earned her B.S. in Business Economics from SUNY Oneonta, and her M.S. in School Counseling from Long Island University. She began her work as a school counselor in the Nyack Public Schools district in 2004. Prior to that, Ms. Gershonovitz worked in advertising and magazine publishing for the New York Times Magazine Group and as marketing director for an internet start up company during the dot com era. As a school counselor, Ms. Gershonovitz works with students from grades 9-12. A firm believer in ensuring that all students receive the resources they need for success, Ms. Gershonovitz follows an equity based approach to her practice. She is an active member of the academic eligibility committee, high school equity team and has facilitated school-wide courageous conversations. She participated in the re-writing of the district eligibility and code of conduct policies ensuring that each are guided through an equity based lens. Ms. Gershonovitz also serves as the co-advisor of the African American/Haitian Culture Club and was previously the senior class advisor for many years. She currently sits on the executive board of the School Counselors of Rockland County as acting past president. Outside of school, Ms. Gershonovitz is a member of the NAACP Education Committee and a board member of OCADA (Our Community Against Drug Abuse). She enjoys spending time with her family, reading historical fiction and traveling. As a New York State Master Counselor, she is excited to collaborate with and learn from her fellow master counselors.

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Jessica McCann

Brewster Central School District

Jessica McCann earned her BA in Psychology with a minor in General Education from Boston College, and an MA and MEd in Psychological Counseling from Teachers College, Columbia University. She achieved certification as a National Board Certified Teacher in 2017. Mrs. McCann was awarded an Empire State Excellence in Teaching Award in 2022 and was named the New York State School Counselor of the Year in 2017 for her small group programming and targeted use of data to improve student outcomes, a skill honed during her time deployed as an analyst with the US Navy. Mrs. McCann was also recognized by the American School Counselor Association as the NY representative at their School Counselor of the Year celebration in Washington, DC in 2019. Since 2004, Mrs. McCann has worked as a School Counselor at Brewster High School and as a Counseling and Social Emotional Wellness Specialist in the Brewster Central School District. In addition to being a member of numerous committees, she serves as the high school counseling liaison and is co-chair of the district's Vision 2026 Student Wellness Action Team. A member of the New York State and American School Counselor Associations, Mrs. McCann enjoys family time, reading, and traveling with her husband and three daughters. As a member of the first cohort of NYS Master Counselors, Mrs. McCann is looking forward to collaborating with passionate educators, particularly when it comes to creating opportunities for work-based learning and helping students identify pathways aligned with their personal strengths.

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Katie Baldo

Cooperstown Central School District

Katie Baldo earned her BA in Sociology with a concentration in Criminology from SUNY Cortland and her M.S.Ed. and C.A.S. in School Counseling from SUNY Oneonta. Since 1998, Ms. Baldo has held several positions within her K-12 certification, with most of her career spent at the high school level. As a counselor at Cooperstown Junior/Senior High School, it is her goal that all students are provided equitable academic, career and social/emotional development opportunities, created in a nurturing environment. Ms. Baldo is also a NYSSCA member, the K-12 Counseling Department Chairperson, President of the Otsego County Counselors' Association, and a District Crisis Team member. As a constituent of the Inquiry Team, she has also played a role in steering the professional development at her district. Ms. Baldo is currently the high school student council advisor but has also enjoyed acting as the district liaison for CFES (College for Every Student), serving as the 9th grade class advisor, child study team facilitator and mentoring counselors new to the profession. Outside of school, Ms. Baldo enjoys spending time with her family, friends, two dogs, attending concerts and musicals, gardening and reading. Ms. Baldo looks forward to learning from and collaborating with other Master Counselors, expanding her professional network, and bringing the important role school counselors play to the forefront of education.

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Alexis McKerrow

Utica City School District

Alexis McKerrow earned a B.S. in Health Education and Physical Education from Syracuse University and then went on to earn her M.S. in Professional School Counseling from Syracuse University in 2016. She also holds a Coordinator for Work-Based Learning Certificate through Buffalo State University. Alexis has been working at Thomas R. Proctor High School in the Utica City School District, a large urban school district in Utica, NY as a school counselor since 2016. She is the school counselor for all students in a 12:1:1 and 12:1:3 special education program, grades 9-12, at Thomas R. Proctor High School. As the Counseling Department Chair, Alexis also oversees 25 school counselors, across grades K-12, in the Utica City School District. She is an active member on the Comprehensive School Counseling Advisory Board, Proctor Sports Hall of Fame Committee, National Honor Society Faculty Council, District Mental Health Committee, District PLATO Curriculum Committee, District and Proctor Crisis-Response Team, and the Career and Technical Education Advisory Board. Alexis is a member of the Mohawk Valley Counselors Association and the St. Elizabeth College of Nursing Board of Directors. Mrs. McKerrow is a huge Syracuse University fan, go Orange! She loves to spend time with her family and friends, watch sporting events and golf. As a NYS Master Counselor, Alexis looks forward to collaborating with exceptional teachers and counselors across NYS to expand her knowledge and enhance her counseling best practices.

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Andrea Martin

Salmon River Central School District

Andrea Martin earned a BS in Music Education from Hartwick College and an MEd in Counseling and Development from St. Lawrence University. Mrs. Martin was named Counselor of the Year in 2005 by her colleagues in the Northern Zone Association for Counseling and Development for her outstanding work with students. She began her school counseling career in 2004, spending eight years as a middle school counselor before transitioning to her role as a high school counselor for the past eleven years. As a counselor at Salmon River High School, working with students in grades 9-12, Mrs. Martin assists with the Sources of Strength program which utilizes an upstream approach to suicide prevention. She also initiated the school's College Application Week program as well as serving on the School Culture Committee. She is a member of the New York State School Counselor Association and the Northern Zone Association for Counseling and Development. Mrs. Martin was inspired to become a school counselor by the time she spent working as a teacher and counselor with the Upward Bound program. She is passionate about supporting underrepresented students on their path toward higher education. Mrs. Martin is looking forward to exploring the changing role of the school counselor, while working with and learning from other Master Counselors.

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Katharine Beck

NYC District 2

Katharine Beck earned her B.A. in English and Visual Arts from Union College (NY), M.A. in Education from Seton Hall University, and Ed.M. in Psychological Counseling with concentrations in mental health counseling and school counseling from Columbia University. She has been Director of College Counseling at the NYC iSchool since 2012, beginning with the school's second graduating class. There, Ms. Beck developed a comprehensive college & post-secondary counseling curriculum and advisory system, and implemented an intern training program. She won the New York Times' "Teacher Who Makes A Difference" award for her college counseling work. As adjunct faculty at Columbia University's Teachers College, she has taught Masters-level school counseling students since 2016 and helped create one of the first college counseling curriculums in the country. Ms. Beck has served on several college advisory boards, including at Union and Ithaca Colleges, has presented at NCAN and NYSACAC conferences, and served on a NACAC's "Serving Next Generation College Counseling and Admission Professionals" ad-hoc committee. Ms. Beck brings to her counseling a background in public relations and secondary education; she is a certified teacher of English with five years of full-time teaching experience at the high school level, as well as in the College Now program at CUNY's Brooklyn College. As a NYS Master Counselor, she's excited to collaborate with colleagues across the state on how to best support students.

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Jennifer Kastner

NYC District 14

Jennifer Kastner earned her BA in Psychology, Latin American Studies, and Spanish from Johns Hopkins University, an MA in Bilingual School Counseling from New York University, and an MA in School Building Leader from New York University. Jennifer has served as a school counselor for both middle school and high school students since 2012. Currently, Mrs. Kastner is a Bilingual School Counselor at Williamsburg Preparatory H.S. in District 14 in Brooklyn, NY. In addition, Jennifer is an adjunct instructor at NYU Steinhardt in the Applied Psychology Department. Mrs. Kastner is an active member of the American School Counseling Association. She finds self-care through spending quality time with her family and running. She has completed four marathons, including the 2023 NYC Marathon. Mrs. Kastner is excited to participate in the first cohort of NYS Master Counselors, to learn from statewide leaders, and to implement new best practices at her high school in Brooklyn.

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Rachael Ming

NYC District 13

Rachael Ming earned her BS in Family Studies from the University of Maryland College Park and her MA in Counseling and Guidance from New York University. Ms. Ming is a school counselor at Brooklyn Technical High School, where she has worked since 2007. She serves as the school's College Now Liaison and is a member of the Professional Development and School Safety Committees. She also assists the school's chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. Ms. Ming is a member of the American School Counselor Association and New York State School Counselor Association. As a NYS Master Counselor Ms. Ming looks forward to connecting, learning, and sharing resources with counselors across the state whose varied experiences will help her expand her skillset as she engages with her students.

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André Torres

NYC District 2

André Torres holds a Bachelor of Science in Theology and is an alumnus of Hunter College's Master of Educational Leadership Program and The College of New Rochelle's Masters of School Counseling Program with a concentration in Thanatology. He has worked for the Department of Education since 2005. He is the Head of Guidance and Director of Culture and Climate at Manhattan Bridges High School. Mr. Torres is also the vice president of the Directors and Supervisors for the New York State School Counseling Association. He recently participated as a committee member of the Blue Ribbon Graduation measure for the New York State Department of Education and Board of Regents. He has various certifications in TCIS, LSCI, TREP, Restorative Justice, and other training to support low-income, first-generation newly arrived immigrants at his high school. His favorite food is empanadas and his favorite hobby is cycling. Quote to live by: "You won't laugh with anyone else if you don't laugh with me."

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Heather Noyd

Broome-Delaware-Tioga Counties BOCES

Heather Noyd earned her BS degrees in Psychology and Health Science from The College at Brockport, MS and CAS in School Counseling from Syracuse University, and earned her National Board Certification as a National Certified Counselor. Upon completing her MS and CAS in 2013, she received the Syracuse University Master's Research Prize and Chi Sigma Iota Outstanding Master's student award. In the profession since 2013, Heather is a Career Counselor at her alma mater, Windsor Central School District, where she works closely with students and businesses focusing on career pathway development, connecting students to meaningful experiences and plans various workshops to support students and families. She also serves as the High School Student Council Advisor and Modified Volleyball coach. She has been a New Teacher Mentor and also serves as an intern supervisor for graduate-level students in the counseling field. Mrs. Noyd is an active member of the district's Diversity Equity Inclusion Committee,Trauma Response Committee, Risk Assessment and Pupil Personnel teams. Beyond the school walls, Mrs. Noyd is also deeply connected to the community; she is the Windsor Youth Sports and Recreation President, Tee Ball Coordinator, and coach. She is passionate about having a positive impact on those around her. In her free time, she loves to be with her family, golf, ski, and play volleyball. As a NYS Master Counselor, Mrs. Noyd looks forward to being a part of the first Master Counselor cohort, to continue to grow and bring back all she learns to others.

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Elaina van der Sommen

Norwich City School District

Elaina van der Sommen earned her BA in Psychology and Elementary Education from SUNY Potsdam, and a MS, CAS, in School Counseling from SUNY Oneonta. For the initial 21 years of her career, Elaina devoted herself to the developmental needs of PreK-2nd grade students. She played a crucial role in creating and delivering a comprehensive school counseling program during this time. She pursued continuing education credits in Play and Sand Play Therapy from Integrative Counseling Services, PLLC, based in Oswego, New York, to enhance her counseling skills. In 2020, Elaina embraced a new professional challenge by transitioning to the middle school setting. In addition to providing individual counseling, she facilitates specialized counseling groups, notably Girls Groups and a 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens group. Her influence extends to the classroom, where she teaches lessons on social-emotional learning, academic preparedness, and college and career readiness. Additionally, Elaina contributes to the professional development of her colleagues. She offers district training on the Xello Career and College Readiness program, leads the School Counseling Advisory Council, and serves on a Building Leadership Team. Elaina is a proud New York State School Counseling Association and Chenango County School Counseling Association member. Elaina's interests include being physically active and playing tennis with her family. She extends that to a summer program for students combining mindfulness with learning to play tennis. As a NYS Master Counselor, Elaina is looking forward to opportunities for continuous learning, networking, and staying current in the field of school counseling.

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Meggan Van Ness

Trumansburg Central School District

Meggan Van Ness began her career in education in 1997 after earning her BS in Secondary Education from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. She went on to earn her MA in Educational Counseling from the University of Phoenix in 2001. She has been a school counselor in the Trumansburg School District since 2017, beginning at the high school and then transferring to the elementary school in the fall of 2020. In addition to her counseling duties she has been a yearbook advisor, class advisor, and has served on multiple committees. Meggan draws on her experience of following a non-traditional career path when working with students on career exploration. Prior to becoming a school counselor, she was a MS/HS English and Social Studies teacher in Las Vegas. Between 2002-2009 she worked for the Clark County Fire Department as a Training Instructor and Public Education Officer. During that time she was able to utilize her teaching and counseling skills to create curriculum around fire safety, drowning prevention and CPR, as well as training others how to deliver lessons. She is dedicated to teaching her students the importance of discovering what they are passionate about as the basis of career exploration. Outside of school Meggan volunteers at her local hospice center making meals for the residents one night a week, serves as a trustee for a scholarship fund that supports those entering the education field, and enjoys time with her husband exploring local food venues and visiting their daughters at college.

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Ami Wiswell

Broome-Delaware-Tioga Counties BOCES

Ami Wiswell earned her BS from Oswego State in Applied Mathematical Economics and her MS Ed and CAS from Oneonta State in School Counselor, K-12. Prior to obtaining her graduate degree, she was a buyer in the private sector. In 2006, she began her foray in school counseling, with her primary goal being to help her students identify and achieve success, their own and those mandated. She strives to enhance her students' development of whole-self, particularly in academics, career readiness, and social/emotional skills. She believes the key is learning what is important to each student, providing the right balance of support and accountability, and collaborating with all stake holders to assist students with reaching their highest potential. Miss Wiswell is employed by Broome-Tioga BOCES, working with area students enrolled in the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program. She serves on the advisory boards at SUNY Broome for four majors associated with P-TECH, is a member of the Professional Development Advisory and Industry Partners Committees at B-T BOCES. In addition, she volunteers with the Voices for Children/Court Appointed Special Advocates program, The Danielle House and works part time for Educational Vistas, Inc. Outside of work, she loves being outdoors, practicing yoga, cooking, baking, reading, and spending as much time as possible with her niece and nephews. She is very much looking forward to expanding her network of fellow counselors and adding to her bag of tricks. She notes: "Learning from, and with, the other NYS Master Counselors will be exhilarating."

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Benedetta Gerardi

Gowanda Central School District

Beth Gerardi earned her B.S. in Science Secondary Education form Oral Roberts University and M.S. in Applied Behavioral Studies from Oklahoma State University. Ms. Gerardi has been in public education since 1990 and has been a school counselor since 1997 years. She is currently a high school counselor at Gowanda High School where she has served in that capacity since 2001. At Gowanda, Ms. Gerardi co-coordinates the high school crisis team and sits on committees for the Seal of Civic Readiness, Seal of Biliteracy, and the local STEM endorsement. Additionally, she serves as the K-12 Director of School Counseling. Ms. Gerardi was recognized as the New York State School Counselor of the Year (2014),was a National School Counselor of the Year Semi-Finalist (2015), received the Excellence in Suicide Prevention Award (2014), a Lifetime Achievement Award in school counseling (2019), and Program of the Year award for drop-out prevention (2015). Ms. Gerardi is a member of the American School Counseling Association, New York State School Counseling Association, Western New York School Counseling Consortium, New York State Association for College Admissions Counseling and the Erie County Suicide Prevention Coalition. She has attended and presented at several NYSSCA conferences and is the current Region 9 Governor for NYSSCA. She is also a NYS Licensed Mental Health Counselor. As a NYS Master Counselor, Ms. Gerardi looks forward to collaborating with other school counselors to develop best practices in the field and presenting at future NYSSCA conferences and local events.

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Lea O'Malley

West Seneca Central School District

Lea O'Malley earned her B.A. in Psychology from Purdue University, her B.S. in Elementary Education from Brooklyn College and MSEd in School Counseling from SUNY Buffalo. Mrs. O'Malley began her career in education as an elementary teacher in Brooklyn, NY. For the last nine years Mrs. O'Malley has been an elementary school counselor in Cheektowaga Central and West Seneca school districts. Mrs. O'Malley's work both at the district and building levels continuously promotes her passion for bringing Social Emotional Learning and Career Development to the forefront in elementary school. She is motivated by finding innovative and creative ways to teach children the importance of mental health at a young age. Mrs. O'Malley enjoys working with students to promote leadership and wellness facilitating Media Club, Student Council, and Zen Club (yoga and mindfulness). Serving as a member of the district SEL Committee, Counseling Advisory Board, MTSS Committees, and PBIS Committee she works to continuously collaborate with colleagues across grades and disciplines. She is looking forward to expanding her knowledge and sharing her passions with fellow counselors across the state in the Master Counselor program. Mrs. O'Malley enjoys incorporating her love for nature, animals and mindfulness into her practice as a school counselor. As a mother of three, she finds joy in staying active and learning from her children as they grow.

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Belinda Westfield

Depew Union Free School District

Belinda Westfield graduated with her BA from Daemen University, MS in Counselor Education from Canisius University, and MS in Educational Administration also from Canisius University. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in NYS and is trained in EMDR (trauma therapy). Ms. Westfield has been working at Depew Schools as a School Counselor for the past 28 years and has served the district at the High School, Middle School, and Elementary School settings. She has also worked as a Cooperating Counselor and Adjunct Professor at Canisius University for the past 15 years. She's facilitated a variety of graduate courses in the Counselor Education Department. Ms. Westfield belongs to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, New York State Counselors Association, Elementary Counselors Consortium, and EMDR Trauma Therapy Network. She additionally published an article about "The Diagnosis and Treatment of Adults with ADHD" in the Journal of Counseling and Development. She currently participates on a variety of district committees such as Comprehensive District Education Plan, Restorative Practices, and Positive Behavior Intervention. She greatly enjoys volunteering on the Musical Committee at her school and teaching Vacation Bible School at her church. Ms. Westfield is honored to participate in the NYS Master Counselor Program as she's excited to further develop her knowledge, skills, and experiences with colleagues to ultimately enhance her work with students, families, and other educators.

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