Rob Lundien, ’96, recognized as finalist for 2016 School Counselor of the Year

Robert Lundien couldn’t help but feel a bit emotional as he was recognized by First Lady Michelle Obama during a White House ceremony in January.

“The young man I brought with me had a front-row seat and you could tell that this was such an incredible experience for him,” said Lundien, a 1996 graduate of Missouri Southern and counselor for Staley High School in Kansas City who was recognized as one of six finalists for the 2016 School Counselor of the Year award. “It brought the whole thing full-circle for me … that the students were the reason we were there.”

Presented by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), the award honors professionals who devote their careers to serving as advocates for the nation’s students, helping them achieve success in school and life. The six finalists traveled to Washington, D.C., for three days of events, including visits with their respective state representatives and the ceremony hosted by the First Lady.

After graduating from Missouri Southern with a degree in music education, Lundien’s teaching career has included serving as band director at Diamond High School, a counselor for Neosho High School and working in special education for the Webb City School District. He has been with Staley High School for the last seven years.

The awards process began in Lundien’s school district, with a nomination from Staley’s principal. He was honored by the Greater Kansas City School Counselor Association and was then selected as the Missouri Secondary School Counselor of the Year. Nominations for the national award were then forwarded to the ASCA for consideration.

“The national award looks at how you advocate for your students, but also how you advocate for your profession,” said Lundien. “They also look at programs and activities used to help with students’ social and emotional well-being and their college readiness.”

As part of his visit, he and the other finalists met with state legislators to talk about the counseling profession.

“We had a chance to sit down and talk about public education and share with them the successes and challenges we see,” he said. “It was a great experience.”

Michelle Obama recognized each of the six finalists (the award went to Katherine Pastor, from Flagstaff, Ariz.) and thanked them for the work they do each day.

“We (held this ceremony) because we wanted to plant a flag and send a clear message that what you all do isn’t a luxury,” she said. “It’s not an ‘extra’ – just the opposite. The work that you do is absolutely essential for the future of our kids, the future that we say we want our kids to have.”

Each finalist was able to bring a student from their school who has overcome a challenge. Selecting one student was difficult, said Lundien, who wishes he could have brought his entire school.

“The ceremony was part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative, which helps kids get to college and have all the support they need,” he said. “It was an overwhelming and emotional experience for me.”


David Pyle, ’97, named Missouri High School Principal of the Year

The Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP) recently selected David Pyle, principal at Carl Junction High School, as the 2016 Missouri High School Principal of the Year.

MASSP presented the award during the group’s annual spring conference at the Lodge of Four Seasons, Lake Ozark, in March. Pyle was awarded the recognition based on his impact in the areas of collaborative leadership; curriculum, instruction and assessment; and his personalization of the learning environment.

The selection was made from more than 600 high-school principals from throughout Missouri. Pyle is in his 11th year in administration and has served as the principal at Carl Junction High School for six years.

Pyle received a bachelor’s degree in education from Missouri Southern in 1997. He also holds a master’s degree from PSU and an educational specialist degree from Southwest Baptist University.

Earlier in his career, as a teacher at Golden City, he was named High School Teacher of the Year.