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East Lake Elementary’s Mental Health and Wellness Facilitator Named HCS 2023 Educational Support Person of the Year

HENRY COUNTY, GA – East Lake Elementary School’s Mental Health and Wellness Facilitator Marga Kirschner is Henry County Schools’ (HCS) 2023 Educational Support Person of the Year (ESPY).

Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Knowlton made the announcement at the March 15 ceremony at the McDonough Performing Arts Center, which celebrated numerous job families, including bookkeepers, administrative assistants, data clerks, bus drivers, and custodians.

The ESPYs recognize the nominees’ hard work and honor their commitment to excellence in supporting the district’s mission and vision. Kirschner was named the overall finalist from the field of 65 exceptional employees selected by schools and departments districtwide.

“Mrs. Kirschner makes an impact every single day,” said Principal Dana Flowers. “East Lake Elementary School is better because of her, and we are grateful for the exceptional support and guidance she consistently provides to our students, teachers, and staff. Her contributions to our school community are truly invaluable.”

Kirschner’s family, Board Chair Sophe Pope (Dist. 4), Vice Chair Annette Edwards (Dist. 2), board members Dr. Pam Nutt (Dist. 1) and Holly Cobb (Dist. 3), other HCS personnel, and guests were present to celebrate the special moment and recognize all the ESPY winners.

“You comfort everyone around you, and I know families have confidence in their children’s safety and well-being every day because you are here,” said Pope. “You go above and beyond to make students feel welcomed and empowered every day so they have a chance to succeed.”

“This is such an honor and a privilege,” Kirschner said. “I couldn’t be in a better district working with better teams and better kids. I do what I do because I love to care for people and help them be the best versions of themselves every day.”

Kirschner’s foray into the mental health and wellness field and ensuing success stemmed from a passion and an inherent gift coinciding with an urgent need. Adaptability was also key, and when the COVID-19 pandemic thrust HCS into a new era, Kirschner was quick to become involved in the district’s response to the unprecedented event.

“During the pandemic, the district provided professional development courses on mental health,” Kirschner said. “I took advantage of the opportunity and was ready to provide the support needed. I envisioned a job like this; I am destined for this position.”

“The role of Mental Health and Wellness Facilitator didn’t exist at HCS two-and-a-half years ago,” said Student Services Director Fredric Latschar. “But through our board being proactive about investing in our students’ health and wellness, we have a position that is unheard of in any school district. We saw the need, and thanks to Marga and other Mental Health and Wellness Facilitators across the district, we are making a difference in the lives of our students and staff. We’ve invested in the personnel, and they’ve invested in our kids. Marga exemplifies the compassion, connectivity, and care the role requires.”

Kirschner has been an educator in HCS for 27 years, serving in various capacities, including as a homeroom teacher, Early Intervention Program teacher, and math instructional lead teacher. With a specialist degree in Early Childhood Education, including math and gifted endorsements, Kirschner was dedicated to a career as a teacher until the shift spurred by the pandemic.

She offers critical support for students’ mental health concerns related to various academic and personal needs. Beyond providing an attentive and empathetic ear, she is committed to identifying solutions to help students remove barriers to growing, thriving, and learning.

“I am devoted to ensuring students know they have access to a trusted adult and an additional layer of support and love that values and cares for them,” Kirschner added. “It is my responsibility and desire to ensure they are physically and mentally safe. I could not have imagined being recognized for doing what I love. I am filled with joy just to be able to brighten a child’s day, which can be as simple as that fist-bump, high-five, hug, check-in, or smile, and that’s my passion. I am so proud to be Henry County Schools’ 2023 ESPY winner.”

“Marga’s compassion and dedication to her role help us empower all our students and set them up for success,” Edwards said. “Her ability to connect with students and offer them meaningful support makes a difference every day. We are truly grateful for her tireless efforts in nurturing and guiding our young learners.”

The other district finalists were Dr. Nicholas Samuels, a Mental Health and Wellness Facilitator at Dutchtown High School, and Edward Winslow, a Campus Safety Monitor at Hampton Middle School.

“Mrs. Kirschner, thank you for all you do to help provide a safe, secure, and supportive learning environment for our students,” Dr. Knowlton said. “I wholeheartedly congratulate all educational support personnel honored today. Providing a world-class education would not be possible without our ESPY winners. Your invaluable support helps us to realize our vision and mission and ensure we are ‘Winning for Kids’ – every kid, every minute, every day.”

Premier sponsor Georgia United Credit Union presented Kirschner, Dr. Samuels, and Winslow with monetary prizes. HCS received additional event support through generous contributions from Buff City Soap, Costco, Cracker Barrel, The Italian Oven, Nothing Bundt Cakes, O&P Solutions, Piedmont Henry, Snapping Shoals EMC, Southern Belle Farm, and Tractor Supply.

About Henry County Schools

Henry County Schools (HCS) is the eighth-largest school district in Georgia, consisting of 52 schools, including two academies, located about 20 minutes south of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Over the past 20 years, our community has grown in population from 113,000 residents to over 244,000 residents. Since 1999, student enrollment has grown from 21,000 to 43,000 students, and our number of employees has grown from 3,000 to 6,000.

HCS is “In Pursuit of Exceptional,” taking action to advance opportunities, access, and outcomes so that every student in our school district has Exceptional Support, Exceptional Access, and an Exceptional Future. In 2020, our Board of Education adopted our 2021-2026 Community-Inspired Strategic Plan and laid out a clear vision and mission for Henry County Schools. Our vision is to ensure a high-quality, world-class education for every student, and our mission is to empower all students with exceptional opportunities and access that lead to success in a global society.

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