McLean High School Counselor Named 2020 VSCA Secondary Counselor of the Year
Kathleen Otal, who serves as a school counselor at McLean High School, has been named the 2020 Virginia School Counselor Association (VSCA) Secondary Counselor of the Year. McLean High School is a Fairfax County public school.
Otal was recognized by VSCA for having a positive impact for students, their families, and their colleagues; for demonstrating innovation and leadership in counseling; and for providing exceptional service in the community.
Otal has served as a school counselor at McLean High School since 2015, where she has established programs for students in the free and reduced-price lunch program; founded Parent University to help parents support their teens in the college admissions process; sponsored a girls leadership committee; and served as co-leader of the School Equity Team and Collaborative Team.
“Ms. Otal will go the extra mile (and then ten miles after that) to help every single student she can and is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure students have the academic, behavioral, and/or emotional support they need,” says McLean assistant principal Sean Rolon. He cited her efforts to secure a device for every student that needed one, in preparation for distance learning, saying, “Ms. Otal recognized an area of need in our community this year and fought hard to gain computer donations from local companies…it took a while to secure the laptops she needed, and she was never deterred.” Rolon praised Otal for helping parents navigate the transition from high school to college, and for also providing support to new staff members.
“Dedicated professional, positive spirit, highly skilled counselor with parents and students, leader and advocate (not necessarily in that order) are the descriptors that come to mind first when I think of Kathleen Otal,” says McLean director of student services Paul Stansbery. He says that Otal became an advocate for students in need at McLean as well as for those experiencing stress. To make students in need feel more connected to the school, Otal applied for a grant from the PTSA to purchase McLean gear, warm clothing for the winter, computers for those who could not afford them, and fees for senior dues, prom, and the all-night grad party. “Her work has made our families more aware of the issue and the rest of our counselors more aware of available resources. Kids who need it are now being helped much more frequently and in a more systemic way,” he explains. To combat stress and anxiety, she advocates working with students and families at a younger age.
Otal, who has worked as a school counselor since 1994, served at Brookfield Elementary School and in Loudoun County Public Schools and Texas before joining the staff at McLean. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the College of William and Mary and a master’s in counselor education from Virginia Commonwealth University.
For more information, contact Kathleen Otal at [email protected].