Bordentown Regional Middle School guidance counselor Dawn Patterson was recognized earlier this month for her work in creating school counseling services to help students thrive in the classroom by being named 2021 Counselor of the County for Burlington County.
Patterson received the honor given out by the New Jersey School Counselor Association (NJSCA) and the Burlington County School Counselors Association (BCSCA) on March 4 for her ability to deliver an effective school counseling program that focuses on academic development, career counseling, and personal/social support.
“It feels really humbling and amazing at the same time,” Patterson said about her award. “I feel very valued for the contributions I have made. It’s been very rewarding to connect with different counselors in the area. Our counselors in Burlington County are doing a lot of great things.”
Patterson was nominated by her colleagues of the BCSCA and then selected by the committee to be Counselor of the County for her leadership in helping advocate for students and collaborating with other professionals to provide success for those students in the classroom and in life.
The Florence Township native has been a member of the BCSCA for the last six years and has been a co-chair for professional development on the association’s executive board for the past two years.
Being a part of the committee has provided Patterson with opportunities to connect with different counselors around Burlington County and come up with new ideas to help her students at the middle school and others across the county.
Patterson introduced a forum for both the BCSCA and the Alliance of New Jersey Environmental Education back in 2019 on creating safe spaces in schools for LGBTQ students and staff.
At the middle school, Patterson was instrumental in helping the school create its “History of Bordentown” and “RAPS” murals to showcase a safe and educational environment for students and teachers to want to work together in.
She got a professional artist to come to paint each mural. The History of Bordentown painting showcases key moments and important figures over the years in the Bordentown community, while the “RAPS” mural signifies one of the clubs at school that goes by their attributes of Respect, Accountability, Pride and Safety.
Patterson herself is the advisor of the middle school’s IMPACT club and said the school is working on doing another mural for endangered species.
“Dawn is the epitome of hard work,” Bordentown Regional Middle School Principal Joseph Sprague said. “She cares a lot about her kids and is always there for them. She has taken the lead in starting up clubs to help kids learn and grow in a safe environment. She is a great asset to our school.”
Patterson has worked in the Bordentown Regional School District as a guidance counselor for the last 20 years.
It was around the same time that Sprague as well started working in the school district. He said it’s been a “joy” to see what Patterson has accomplished over the last 20 years and great to work with her the last five years as the principal of the middle school.
Sprague got the opportunity to speak on Patterson’s behalf at a Zoom luncheon held on March 19 by the NJSCA to honor all the County Counselors of the Year in the state.
It was at the event where Sprague realized the true “magnitude” of the award and how much it meant to have Patterson represent the middle school on the Counselor of the County.
“It’s a pretty big award,” Sprague said. “I had goosebumps when I was about to speak.”
Patterson started her first six years in the school district at Peter Muschal Elementary School, working with students in grades 3-6, and then moved up to the middle school in 2006.
Patterson called her time at Peter Muschal a “great experience” and said that she learned a lot from the faculty and staff working in the school at the time who were like “mentors” to her.
Before her time in Bordentown, Patterson taught at the elementary school level in the School District of Philadelphia.
Patterson is a native of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Bloomsburg University, and has a master’s degree in school counseling from Arcadia University.
It was during Patterson’s time in Philadelphia where she decided to move over to the school counseling side of education and go back to school to become a guidance counselor.
“I recognized that I wanted to work with kids in a different capacity,” Patterson said. “I wanted to help them with issues they were having outside of school and make school a place where they could feel safe to learn.”
Because of the recent events of the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Patterson said she understands that many students will have some trauma from the situation and will need to find a way with her fellow counselors to address those issues, so those students can continue to learn in the classroom.
At the end of the day, the last 20 years in Bordentown have brought Patterson a lot of joy and she is “grateful” to be a part of the school district and work in the middle school.
“After 20 years, I still love my job,” Patterson said. “I’m very grateful to have this job.”