When Sylvia Lopez, director of Dallas ISD Counseling Services, recently received a letter from the Texas Counseling Association announcing that she was the recipient of the TCA Distinguished Service Award, she was pleasantly surprised. She had no idea she had even been nominated. Described as an “auspicious and fearless leader” by her colleagues, Lopez will receive the prestigious award Nov.13 as counselors from around the state gather at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel.
Lopez’s 38 years of service as an educator (35 of those years have been with Dallas ISD) have been driven by a desire to make a difference in students’ lives.
“It’s a commitment and a passion to strive to give kids hope for the future,” Lopez said. “I have served as a teacher, counselor, and school principal, but I always had that feeling of coming back to school counseling. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing students with whom you’re working excel, and knowing that you’re giving them encouragement for the future,” said Lopez.
Her colleagues are not at all surprised by Lopez’s selection for the award. “Dr. Lopez is a true leader of counselors at heart. She has the passion to see all of her counselors succeed and to ensure the personal, social, emotional, and academic success of all students in Dallas ISD!” said Tracey Brown, a Counseling Services supervisor.
Lopez’s desire to help others began in high school. Early on, she recognized that she had to overcome adversity and work hard to achieve success. “As a high school student, I wasn’t given a chance by school counselors,” she said. “I wasn’t told that they believed in me, that I was a college-bound student.” During that time, she says, Hispanics were not considered college material.
She began to reflect that no high school educator had given her the motivation to do the things she was accomplishing in college. “Once I was in college, I had the best experience I could have desired, and from then on, I became a life-long learner,” Lopez said. “I decided that I wanted to give hope to other kids, to let them know that there were more things to do in life beyond high school.” She attributes part of her success to her family support and best friends, who helped inspire her throughout her college years.
Lopez’s aspirations, dedication to improving the lives of children, and hard work led her to the top job in the district’s Counseling Services department. Recalling a conversation she had early in her career with her mentor, who was then director of Counseling Services, it almost seems she was destined for the position. Asked what she would like to do in the future, she recalls expressing how someday she would love to be the director.
As the district’s top counselor, Lopez is directly responsible for overseeing elementary, middle and high school counselors, and for implementing an effective counseling program for Dallas ISD students. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas State University, a master’s from Southern Methodist University, and her doctorate from NOVA Southeastern University. President-elect of the Texas School Counselors Association, she is an eight-year veteran of the organization’s board of directors. A leader in her field, she helped rewrite the Texas Comprehensive Developmental Guidance and Counseling Program Model Guide, a compilation of best practices in school counseling.