McAllen ISD offers exemplary and experienced counselors at all of its schools. Dr. Patricia Avila of Garza Elementary is one of the best, not only in the district but in the entire state according to the Lone Star State School Counselor Association.
Dr. Avila was named a school counselor of the year semifinalist and was honored at the third annual LSSSCA conference on Nov. 5, in Frisco.
“Pat exemplifies what an elementary counselor is,” Dr. Rosalba De Hoyos, McAllen ISD head of counseling said. “She’s very thorough with her responsibilities which are many.”
Avila has been a staple on campus at Garza for 29 years and she says the people, children and adults, she’s interacted with deserve some of the credit for her recognition.
“It’s not a solo award,” Dr. Avila said. “I really attribute my success to the community that I work with. All the way to the administrators that trusted me when I first got hired at Garza Elementary. I’ve been there since 1990. I was hired by Mrs. Ortega who was the first principal who opened Garza.”
“She asked me what makes you highly qualified and I said ‘I love children and I believe in children. I’ve been successful because of the people I’ve worked with.’ ”
Until then all of Avila’s training was in secondary education but she thrived at the elementary level from day one.
“For children of the age group that I work with, the two most important individuals in their lives are their parents and their teachers,” Dr. Avila said. “It’s a big responsibility and a lot comes with that responsibility. If we can say a few words, do some small act that makes an impression on them and it’s a lasting impression then we’ve done well.”
Even as a counseling professional for years, she says she learns from her students to this day.
“The biggest lesson for me is that (the students) are so resilient,” Dr. Avila said. “Some of these kids have had some tough lives and they bounce back. I admire their courage.”
Nowadays, she will run into former students who are well into their adult lives. Sometimes she’ll get surprised reactions and questions about when she is going to retire.
Avila sticks with the same response ‘Yeah, you guys are going to have to carry me out one day,” she’ll say laughing. “I love what I do.”
Garza principal Nancy Valenzuela talked about what makes Dr. Avila special.
“More than anything, it’s the love that she has for our children, our teachers, our community,” Valenzuela said. “It just takes that total difference. I think it’s just those relationships that she has established with everyone.”
De Hoyos spoke about how Dr. Avila is an example of tireless dedication to the craft.
“Because of all the demands and all the deadlines, we sometimes get lost in all the paperwork,” De Hoyos said. “Pat has been one of those counselors that remain true to the calling of counseling. She loves to get into the classroom, to talk to the students, to be on a 1-to-1 with them. It doesn’t matter what time of the day or what day it is, she's not going to leave the school until she’s done.”
The counseling director said that Dr. Avila is one of many counselors serving children across the district.
“Just like her, we have many counselors in McAllen that we can easily also acknowledge and celebrate,” De Hoyos said. “She is exceptional but she isn’t the only one in McAllen ISD.”
CAPTION FOR PHOTO
Dr. Pat Avila, center, stands with her certificate from the Lone Star State School Counselor Association. At left is McAllen ISD Director for College/Career/Counseling, Dr. Rosalba De Hoyos and, at right, is Monica Dominguez, Chair of the Lone Star School Counselor Association Selection Committee.