Ritenour Counselors Earn Regional Honors
School counselors are instrumental in maintaining the high quality of learning that takes place in Ritenour schools every day. In the life of a school counselor, there is never a dull moment, as their role may look completely different from one day to the next, depending on the needs of the school and students. In the end, their goal always remains the same – to be a listener and an advocate for all students, ensuring they feel safe and valued, and enabling them to be the best version of themselves. This year, the district is honored to have two counselors whose compassion and exemplary performance earned them prestigious regional awards.
Matthew Berry, Middle School Counselor of the Year – St. Louis Suburban School Counselor Association
Matthew Berry, a counselor at Ritenour Middle School, was named Middle School Counselor of the Year by the St. Louis Suburban School Counselor Association (SLSSCA). He was surprised with the honor by district and school administrators on Jan. 13.
Since Berry joined Ritenour Middle School in 2016, he has created meaningful programs that build positive relationships and culture throughout the school. This year, he worked with his colleagues to transform the teacher’s lounge into a larger, more inviting and nurturing counseling area for students.
Berry also was instrumental in spearheading the Watch Dogs program, a mentoring program where fathers volunteer in the building and help other students with their homework or monitor student behavior.
“Mr. Berry is a tremendous advocate for our students and is keenly in tune with their needs," said Principal Dr. Brian Rich. "He goes above and beyond in making sure our students and families are connected with the resources they need, and often follows up with students in crisis after hours and on weekends.”
Berry is currently the Missouri School Counselor Association’s Board of Directors chairman and past president for SLSSCA.
Dina Durnin, High School Counselor of the Year – St. Louis Suburban School Counselor Association
Dina Durnin, a counselor at Ritenour High School, was named High School Counselor of the Year by the St. Louis Suburban School Counselor Association. Students surprised her with the honor with flowers and a special poster on Jan. 17.
Durnin is a leader and innovator in the high school counseling department who works closely with students and families to build trust and meet their needs in a collaborative environment. She has worked hard to create a space where students know they have a voice and can receive crisis support when necessary. This year, she raised money to create a calming space for high school students and staff to utilize when they are feeling anxious. She also created a student Trauma Team and has worked closely with youth at Ritenour High School and across the region as they work to learn and share experiences and strategies in an effort to improve trauma awareness. As an advocate for mental health support, Durnin introduced mindfulness practices and yoga to the RHS community, and also integrated technology into her department that gives students real-time access to counseling support.
“Dina is an amazing professional school counselor who deserves to be honored for her hard work and advocacy," said fellow RHS counselor Bethany Buescher, who nominated Durnin for the award. "Her creativity, passion and advocacy are evident in everything she does each day for Ritenour students, staff and community."
Her highest praise comes from the students she works tirelessly to support. From helping students recover from anxiety attacks to getting at-risk students back on track to graduate, she is always there to lend a helping hand, give advice, or just check in with students. Students say she is easy to talk to and uplifts everyone she comes across.
Durnin and Berry were formally honored by the St. Louis Suburban Schools Counselor Association on Feb. 7.