Milford elementary counselor recognized at state level

By Elle Wood
Posted 5/29/24

The state’s recently named 2024 Behavioral Health Professional of the Year, a counselor at Mispillion Elementary School in Milford, says it’s a “wonderful experience to have my work appreciated.”

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Milford elementary counselor recognized at state level


MILFORD — The state’s recently named 2024 Behavioral Health Professional of the Year, a counselor at Mispillion Elementary School, says it’s a “wonderful experience to have my work appreciated.”

Shannon Gronau has been counseling at the K-5 school for three years, after teaching in Wisconsin and in Kent County’s Capital School District.

She began in the field in 2012 and said she is pleased to have her work recognized among others in the profession.

“I am absolutely so honored to be recognized by the state,” Ms. Gronau said. “I feel like I am also representing an incredible group of behavioral health professionals. All of my colleagues have been in the field for a very long time, and they do incredible work, as well.”

Announced May 21, the Delaware Department of Education created this award to highlight the work of school employees who are health care practitioners and human service providers. These positions include counselors, nurses, social workers, licensed clinical social workers and psychologists.

Ms. Gronau was one of 19 nominees, each selected as their district’s Behavioral Health Professional of the Year.

Each of them received a $2,000 prize from his or her district. As the state winner, Ms. Gronau earned an additional $3,000, plus $5,000 from the Education Department to use for her students’ educational benefits.
Reflecting on her experiences, she said she enjoys seeing the progress children make each year.

“My favorite part about being a school counselor is seeing my students grow from year to year,” Ms. Gronau said. “Even if it is little steps they are making in their progress, you can tell that they are flourishing, whether ... socially or behaviorally, (or) even something as simple as them explaining how they feel.”

The progression can be so evident that parents and students contact her to praise her work.

“Oftentimes, especially when I worked at the high school level, I have had parents and students reach out or run into me in the community, and they will talk about how helpful it was to have worked with me, how much I helped them and where they are now in their lives,” Ms. Gronau said. “So, being able to see that progress when they graduate from high school is just so rewarding.”

Her main goal is for students to make strides, no matter how big or small.

“The little progress they are making along the way I know is planting seeds for the future,” she noted.

One method for that development is via a leadership program she created last year at Mispillion. The mentoring-style initiative involves training some fifth graders to become role models for first graders who may be shy or may be having trouble fitting in.

She teaches the older kids leadership skills to use in small-group activities with the first graders, so they can form relationships and feel connected to the school.

She said she is pleased with the effort’s results, adding that the number of students involved has doubled since its initiation.

“I started it last year and not only saw progress in my first graders but also my fifth graders,” Ms. Gronau said. “They really believed in their ability to be leaders and felt very confident in their work.

“The first graders felt that they made a very positive connection here at school and felt that they were a part of the community.”

She also hopes it becomes a well-known program at her school.

“My goal is to continue to grow the program so that it is a staple of Mispillion for students to be able to experience,” Ms. Gronau said.

That passion for working with children came during college. She knew she wanted to do so but couldn’t decide how exactly, when a school counselor had a significant impact on her.

“I met a teacher school counselor while I was doing an internship experience in my bachelor’s program,” she said, “and the work she did and the impact she made on the students, I just knew that was how I was going to make a difference in the lives of children.”

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