The American School Counselor Association surprised Sunset Ridge Counselor Mindy Willard by naming her the 2012-2013 School Counselor of the Year at a school assembly Wednesday, November 28.

Sunset Ridge is a K-8 school in the Pendergast Elementary School District which serves nearly 10,000 students in West Phoenix, Glendale and Avondale.

Willard is the sixth counselor nationally to receive the honor and the first in Arizona.  Jill Cook, Assistant Director of ASCA, made the surprise announcement to Willard at an assembly attended by Sunset Ridge students, staff, District counselors and administrators.  The Counselor of the Year finalists were selected based on criteria including counseling innovations, effective counseling programs, leadership and contributions to student advancement.

A graduate of Ball State University, Willard started as a counselor at Sunset Ridge in 2004.  Among her achievements and innovations at Sunset Ridge is Club Ophelia, a program to increase self-esteem and resiliency in 7th and 8th grade girls.

She previously won the Arizona Multi-level School Counselor of the Year award in 2007 and she and Sunset Ridge were presented the prestigious RAMP Award (Recognized ASCA Model Program) in 2011.

Willard and the four national finalists will be honored by ASCA at a recognition event in Washington D.C. Feb. 1, 2013.