Counselor Education

USM Alumna Named Maine School Counselor of the Year

USM Counselor Education alumna Tara Kierstead, 2019 Maine School Counselor

USM Counselor Education alumna Tara Kierstead has been named the 2019 Maine School Counselor of the Year by the Maine School Counselor Association. Kierstead is a school counselor at the Hall-Dale Middle/High School in Farmingdale, where she took her first job after earning her master's degree seven years ago.  

“This is a huge deal to be recognized,” Kierstead shared with Eastport’s The Quoddy Tides. “I work with kids in crisis, and I love it. It’s stressful but so worth it.”

A Maine native, Kierstead made some big changes in a small school district.

“I started the food pantry and the snack pantry at the school so the kids could have free meals, as well as initiating [a] trans-inclusive policy, and both are now in [all RSU 2] schools.” (Esposito, December 28, 2018.)

 Associate Professor of Counselor Education Bette Katsekas was a supporter of Kierstead’s from the start.

“Tara was an outstanding student and a deeply caring person. She was committed to the profession, even then. I'm not surprised at all that she received this award. It was easy to see that she would be a remarkable counselor and the profession of School Counseling is fortunate to have her!”

In 2017, Kierstead was honored by the American School Counselors Association for her creative initiatives when she traveled to the nation’s capital to meet Michelle Obama and see her speak publicly for the last time as First Lady.  

“Being at the White House with Michelle Obama was amazing, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Kierstead told the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel.

This coming year, Kierstead will represent Maine at the annual school counselors’ conferences in Boston and Washington, DC, as well as meet with Maine’s newly appointed Commissioner of Education, Pender Makin, also an alumna of USM. In addition, Kierstead will have multiple speaking engagements throughout the year.

Read more about Kierstead’s achievement in the January 2019 Department of Education Newsletter.