Amanda Wilcox, left, laughs Friday with Principal Sara Derosby after an assembly at Hall-Dale Elementary School in Hallowell. The assembly was to announce Wilcox has been named the 2023 Maine School Counselor of the Year. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

HALLOWELL – To the tune of The Wiggle’s “Skinnamarik — I Love You,” sung by Hall-Dale Elementary School students, Amanda Wilcox accepted the award for Maine School Counselor of the Year. 

To her surprise, students gathered in the gymnasium Friday to perform the “I Love You” song for Wilcox and to present her with the state-level award in front of her friends, students and family members, who made the drive from South Carolina to see her get the award. 

“It was a good surprise,” Wilcox, 33, said. 

Amanda Wilcox as she is presented Friday with the 2023 Maine School Counselor of the Year Award during an assembly at Hall-Dale Elementary School in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The Maine School Counselor of the Year is chosen by past winners and various other board members from the Maine School Counselor Association, who look at the nominations and score the candidates based on their letters of recommendation, a submitted video and other aspects of their job as a counselor, including data they use to make informed decisions. 

Wilcox was nominated by Sara Derosby, the principal of Hall-Dale Elementary School, and is the first Kennebec County winner since 2017 and 2019, when Tara Kierstead, a counselor at Hall-Dale Middle and High School, won the award.

Wilcox has worked at Hall-Dale Elementary School for eight years, right after she received her master’s degree in counseling from the University of Southern Maine. Wilcox is originally from South Carolina and moved to Maine after she graduated from Clemson University. 


“The job of a school counselor is never ending, stressful, important and delicate,” Derosby wrote in her nomination letter. “Amanda shows the qualities of compassion, patience, understanding and advocacy. The work she does on a daily basis amazes me and (is) not something that anyone could do.”

School counselors across Maine and the nation have had increasingly difficult experiences with their job as students relearn how to adapt to the “regular” school setting as they transition from remote learning. 

A school counselor is the “guidance counselor of the past,” according to Kimberly Raymond, president of the Maine School Counselor Association. They do not provide clinical therapy, which is typically done by social workers. Instead, school counselors are there to support the social, emotional and academic needs of a school’s culture. 

The American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of 250 students to one guidance counselor, on average. The average ratio in Maine during the 2020-21 school year was 297 students to one counselor, and at Hall-Dale, Wilcox has about 300 students. 

Wilcox teaches a “Guidance Class” where she sees all 19 classes at the school on a weekly basis. They use an evidence-based curriculum called “Second Step” for which they are given the tools to be a good learner, such as how to focus, how to self-listen and how to self-talk. 

Beyond her class, Wilcox has five or six other classes where she teaches students specific skills, including how to ask other students to play on the playground.  


Wilcox has some one-on-one teaching moments with students on a more regular basis. And if teachers identify students who could use some time to talk, Wilcox sees them, too. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilcox said she and her team had to reestablish school as a “safe place” for students.  

“School was shut down,” she said. “They did not come here at all, and it never happened before in their lifetime. Before, it was constant. It was a place they can go and get two meals, and it was a lot of ‘let’s get back to this as a safe community.’” 

Raymond, president of the Maine School Counselor Association, said school counselors are “the heart of the school and the social and emotional needs of students.” Raymond is a school counselor in Hampden-based Regional School Unit 22.

“With the pandemic, school counselors are more important than ever,” Raymond said. “Students were coming in with anxiety around the pandemic, from lack of social interactions, families were struggling, they lost loved ones or parents weren’t able to work. It hit families so hard, and the social and emotional needs increased in a lot of kids.” 

Despite the difficulty of the job, Wilcox said students are the motivation that keeps her going.  

Wilcox said she knew she always wanted to be in a classroom, after having educators as parents, but realized after graduating she seeks to be around the children.

“They clapped for so long for me. There is only one school counselor here and the kids were like: ‘I knew it! I knew it was her!,’ and we were like, ‘Well, there is only one!’” she said, laughing.

Wilcox is to be recognized Friday at the Hall of Flags at the Maine State House in Augusta, and is also expected to be invited to the American School Counseling Association gala in Washington, D.C., in January 2024.

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