Loudoun County, Va. (October 8, 2014) – The Virginia Middle School Association (VMSA) has selected Ashley Harper and Kimberly Crandall as the co-recipients of the 2014 Master in the Middle Educator of the Year Award.
Harper is a school counselor at J. Michael Lunsford Middle School. Crandall is principal at Locust Grove Middle School in Orange County. As the selection committee deliberated through a difficult screening process, it became clear that Harper’s and Crandall’s nomination credentials rose to the top of the list and they was both equally deserving of the award.
In reading the supporting letters for Harper’s nomination, the selection committee was most impressed with the enthusiastic endorsement given by one of her former students who said, “Mrs. Harper, unlike most adults in middle school, guided you to make your own decisions before she told you what to do.” The student continued to say that Harper’s door is always open to students and that she inspired the student to consider a career in counseling.
Harper’s principal, Neil Slevin, described her as an innovative leader with a passionate commitment to student mental health and achievement. “Mrs. Harper can best be described as a fearless advocate,” wrote one colleague. “This passion has led to a variety of programs that support student achievement and emotional health.”
This is Harper’s 13th year as a professional school counselor in Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS). She began her career by opening up River Bend Middle School, then opened Stone Hill Middle School as the lead counselor before helping to open Lunsford, where she is the lead counselor and seventh grade counselor.
She was instrumental in establishing the 20X Club, a parent-driven organization that encourages minority students to pursue rigorous course work and college planning, as well as programs such as Lion’s Leap, Early Back and Day at Work.
Harper received her bachelor of science degree in family and child development from Virginia Tech and her master of education in school counseling from George Mason University. She also is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor.
The purpose of the Master in the Middle Educator of the Year Award is to recognize educators who serve in roles other than classroom teachers, who have demonstrated a devotion to working with young adolescents and have demonstrated a commitment to best middle-level practices. Award recipients will be recognized at the annual VMSA Conference on October 24th at James Madison University.