Jefferson Awards: Kids first focus makes guidance counselor a beloved mainstay at school


Beyond the front doors at James B. Edwards Elementary School, it's a typical day of teaching and learning. Classes full of young minds are busy in classwork, and sometimes sliding a climbing their way through another day.

It's all under the watchful eye of Erin Bua. She's the guidance counselor at James B. Edwards -- and she misses very little.

From singling out particular children to remind them of their manners on the school bus or pointing out another student's new haircut, she's always busy in the hallways.

Bua's also never short on hugs or energy, always focused on the growing minds that fill the hallways day after day.

But Bua's Wednesday was going to be different, even though she had no idea what was happening behind the scene. She knew nothing about Amy Totherow's heartfelt nomination to be named the next Jefferson Award winner.

When Bua sat down with an ABC News 4 crew, she thought she would be talking about the role of guidance counselors in helping the teachers and staff through problems as class sizes grow and teaching jobs are cut.

Then, she read the nomination form. Peeking around a corner was Totherow.

"'I would like to nominate Erin Bua for the ABC News 4 jefferson Award' -- I like this so far," Bua said. "'At Christmas she organized an Angel Tree event for JBE students.' It was 88 kids this eyar. That was my record, and three adults so 91 total."

She continued reading the list of accomplishments and priased bestowed on her by Totherow.

"'Her ability to treat each family with respect no matter where they come from resonated through the students and parents alike,'" she read aloud again before pausing. "This is so sweet."

And there was more.

"'This goes to a person in the community who gives a little more, cares a little more, loves a little more' -- wow, I love that part -- 'That is Erin Bua,'" she read. "That's me. Who did this?"

Unable to hide any longer, Totherow emerged for one of Bua's well-known hugs.

"As I started writing it, I didn't think it would appeal to anyone. It's hard to explain what a wonderful person she is if you haven't met her, and the words just came out," Totherow said.

Bua's extra efforts include a snack pantry for students who don't have daily snacks from home. She's giving out about 1,00 snacks per months.

There's also a clothes closet.

"When kids outgrow clothes, I distribute clothes for kids who need them," Bua said.

And there's a shoe drive with Rack Room Shoes. It's a passion, Bua says.

"Education and children are my passions and I love my job each and every day, and I will continue to make a difference each and every day by spreading hope and blessings around," she said.

The school has embraced the notion of global leadership. Bua's leading by example, wrapping her arms around an entire school, and inspires a generation of young people on a daily basis.

But the story with Bua goes deeper for ABC News 4's Dean Stephens, who heads up the Jefferson Awards search each month. He's know Bua for more than a decade.

When his youngest son Sam was involved in an accident at their home in 1995, it was Bua who looked after then-third grade Jack when she served as guidance counselor at Belle Hall Elementary.

As young Sam recovered in the hospital for three weeks, she was Jack's rock at school, Stephens said, keeping him safe in those arms.

Coming full circle for Stephens and Bua thanks to Totherow's submission, now Bua's tireless work with some of the community's youngest and most impressionable will be recognized as a Jefferson Award winner.

ABC News 4 has committed to profile people in the Lowcountry who go above and beyond by giving their time and talents to help the people around them. It's all part of our partnership with the Jefferson Awards, a national organization dedicated to recognizing and celebrating those who serve and lead.

If you would like to share someone's story of volunteerism who needs to be recognized, click here.

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