KENNESAW — A Cobb County counselor has been named the Georgia Counselor of the Year and will have a chance to compete for the national title in 2021.

Barbara Truluck was caught off guard Tuesday morning when Palmer Middle School students, faculty and staff, along with members of her family and representatives from the Georgia School Counselor Association, surprised her with the announcement.

The crowd gathered in the library where eight students, each holding a letter in the word “champion,” took turns stepping forward and sharing what makes someone a champion, from their care for students to their attention to detail.

When they were done, GSCA President Maria Grovner shared that the state’s own counselor champion was in their midst.

Truluck, who has been at Palmer for six years, said she was honored and humbled to receive the award out of so many counselors across the state.

“To have this honor is really a highlight of my career. I just absolutely love being a school counselor,” she said.

Truluck said she and other counseling staff in the school focus 80% of their attention of the social-emotional needs of students, while also assisting them in their academic success. She said anxiety and depression, even among middle school students, is increasing, and school counselors are one of the first lines of defense in combating those problems.

“School counselors are teachers as well, and we go into the classroom to teach coping strategies and techniques to help reduce stress. We teach grit and resiliency. We run small groups for students who need more intensive interventions,” Truluck said.

She also said vaping is “huge issue” in Cobb schools, and counseling staff are part of the fight against student vaping.

Linda Corriveau, assistant principal at Palmer Middle School, said she and the other staff at the school are blessed to have Truluck at their school, adding she goes above and beyond and keeps up with trends to stay ahead of the best practices for helping students.

“She’s incredible — so passionate and driven — and she just wants to succeed for the kids in our building and our county and our state,” Corriveau said.

Mary Matthies, Truluck’s mother, drove up from Griffin to be there for her daughter. Matthies said she’s always known “just what to do” when faced with challenges and now, as a school counselor, has “come into her own.”

“She is someone that my husband used to say, ‘You could build a mountain on her shoulders,’” Matthies said. “She’s a worrier, so that was always something that I worried about for her. But she’s channeling it now. She just loves her job. And feel like, ‘Wow. She’s (doing) what she was supposed to be doing.”

Truluck’s 24-year-old daughter, Katie, is a medical student and says her mother passed on the helping-people gene.

“All of my values, all of my hard work, everything I’m proud to say I am is directly from her and my dad,” she said. “She is the most intelligent, driven woman I’ve ever met in my entire life and she’s my biggest role model. The way she’s loved and supported me my entire life, I’m proud to say she can do that for all the kids she treats in school.”

Truluck was selected by a state panel, based on “their ability to create systemic change within the profession, school counseling innovations, exemplary comprehensive school counseling programs, leadership and advocacy skills, and contributions to student achievement,” according to a news release from the GSCA.

Grovner said Truluck will be recognized at a state conference in Augusta in November.

And as for the 2021 national competition, Truluck says she’s ready.

“I am competitive,” she said. “I’m a sports mom at heart.”

The GSCA also recognized other Cobb schools personnel as winners of various awards on Tuesday. These winners will also be recognized at the November conference:

♦ Sherri Hill, chief school leadership officer for the Cobb County School District, has been named Advocate of the Year;

♦ Ebony Payno, school counselor at Cobb Horizon High School, has been named Writer of the Year; and

♦ Nadiya Rosen, school counselor at Acworth Elementary School, has been named the Emerging School Counselor Leader.

Follow Thomas Hartwell on Twitter at twitter.com/MDJThomas.

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