Maui News

School Counselor Honored in Ceremony with Former First Lady Michelle Obama

February 9, 2018, 10:42 AM HST
* Updated February 11, 4:23 PM
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Maui High School alum Bianca Yanuaria, who now serves as a school counselor at Keolu Elementary on Oʻahu, was honored recently during a ceremony with former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Yanuaria was selected out of more than 600 public and private school counselors across the state as the Hawaiʻi School Counselor of the Year for 2018 by the Hawai‘i School Counselor Association.  She represented Hawai‘i in Washington, D.C. at the American School Counselor Association’s 2018 Counselor of the Year ceremony held Feb. 2, 2018 at the Kennedy Center and Union Station.  The ceremony and awards gala, which featured keynote speaker former First Lady Michelle Obama.

“It’s an honor to represent the state as the School Counselor of the year. It’s humbling to be recognized for doing what I’m passionate about, which is helping students realize their potential and to make sure they are ready to face any challenge life throws their way,” said Yanuaria. “Mahalo to these wonderful counselor associations for this opportunity and for supporting school counselors like me.”

In honor of National School Counseling week, the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education recognized Yanuaria for her accomplishments. 

“Congratulations and mahalo to Bianca and all of our school counselors for their dedication to our students,” said Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto. “Bianca’s innovative programs are a wonderful example of how our schools are encouraging students to find their voice and promoting teacher collaboration.” 


Yanuaria has implemented a variety of fresh and creative initiatives at Keolu Elementary including a recess program aimed at teaching conflict resolution, an attendance program that has helped to reduce chronic absenteeism from 17% to 6%, wove her guidance lessons and counseling into her school garden, and started an Aloha Committee to help build relationships among the school’s faculty.


“We are honored to endorse Bianca as our Hawai‘i School Counselor of the Year. While she is still at an early stage in her career, she has fully embraced her role and this can be seen through her accomplishments at our school,” added Gay Kong, Principal, Keolu Elementary. “Her continued professional learning has led to ingenious practices with our students.” 

Yanuaria has been the School Counselor at Keolu Elementary for four years. She is a Maui High School alum and graduate of the University of California, Davis with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and California State University, Sacramento with a Master’s degree in Counseling. 

“School counselors make significant contributions to the overall well‐being of students and their success,” said Richard Wong, Ed.D., executive director, American School Counselor Association. “They have unique qualifications and skills that allow them to address students’ academic achievement, career development and social/emotional needs. Through the school counselor of the year award, we are able to acknowledge their diligence, commitment and excellence.”


ASCA is celebrating 2018 National School Counseling Week from Feb. 5-9. The goal of the week is to focus focus public attention on the unique contribution of school counselors within US school systems. 

Keolu Elementary counselor, Bianca Yanuaria, represented Hawai‘i in Washington, D.C. at the American School Counselor Association’s 2018 Counselor of the Year ceremony. Photo Credit: Bianca Yanuaria

Yanuaria has implemented a variety of fresh and creative initiatives at Keolu Elementary. Photo Credit: Bianca Yanuaria

The ceremony and awards gala featured keynote speaker former First Lady Michelle Obama. Photo Credit: Bianca Yanuaria

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