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Jackie Kleiner of Harold Martin Elementary School in Hopkinton has been named Guidance Counselor of the Year by the Department of Education's Excellence in Education Awards. (NANCY BEAN FOSTER PHOTO)

Hopkinton elementary school counselor surprised by top state honor

HOPKINTON - School counselor Jackie Kleiner thought Monday would be just another busy day at the Harold Martin Elementary School, but when she arrived at the gym for an impromptu assembly, she quickly realized something big was happening.

Kleiner has been named Elementary School Counselor of the Year as part of the 2013 New Hampshire Excellence in Education Awards, or "EDies."

"I was totally surprised and overwhelmed," said Kleiner, 38, who has worked at the school for 13 years. "I love my job and I'm happy that others noticed that.

Each year, EDies are given to the educators who have gone above and beyond to provide safe, effective and nurturing learning environments for students from elementary school to high school. The Department of Education, along with a number of professional organizations, work in collaboration to recognize educators who are nominated each year. The New Hampshire School Counselor Association receives the nominations for school counselors in elementary, middle and high school, and determines the recipients each year.

The full list of recipients has not yet been released for 2013 as school districts prepare to surprise their winning educators - as Kleiner was Monday. The 20th annual EDies Gala to celebrate all the award recipients will be held on Saturday, June 8, 2013.

In Hopkinton, it's Kleiner's moment to shine. Though she's not particularly comfortable being in the limelight, she believes the award means she's doing something right for the children she serves.

"It makes me feel good and appreciated," she said. "And it makes me feel like I'm doing what's needed."

A frustration for Kleiner is that there are so many kids who could use someone to talk to, but there's only so much time in a day. Fitting it all in is Kleiner's biggest challenge.

"I hear a lot of sad stories, but it's not my job to cry about them. It's my job to help fix things," she said. "I realize I can be the person who helps turn things around."

Principal Bill Carozza, who started at Harold Martin the same year Kleiner did, said the school counselor is a leader who is respected by students and staff alike.

"She knows every child in the school by name, and there are 300," said Carozza. "She's in every classroom once a week for most of the year."

Carozza said that he's not surprised Kleiner received an EDie for her work.

"The EDies offer us an opportunity to celebrate education in New Hampshire, and Jackie is the symbol for the state of what a counselor should be," he said.

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