In the 22 years Carol McQuirk has served as a counselor in the Carson City School District, she said there have been very few days she hasn't looked forward to going to work.
"I love this age level of kids," she said. "There are no dull moments. I never know what's coming through the door."
She had no idea what to expect when Principal Tom Badillo came through the door accompanied by Richard Stokes, associate superintendent of human resources.
"I thought my license had expired or something else like that," she said.
But the ominous-looking men in black suits were bearing good news: McQuirk had been selected as Counselor of the Year by the University of Nevada, Reno.
"I didn't know what to say. I was stunned," she said. "But it really feels good. It's an honor."
McQuirk's first career aspiration was to work in juvenile probation. But after an internship with the California Youth Authority, she changed her mind.
"I knew right away that it wasn't for me," she said. "I didn't want to work with kids in jail. I wanted to work with them before it got to that."
So she switched to counseling.
"I've never looked back on that decision. It was a good one."
And it's the little things, she said, that make her job worthwhile. She will often give students "counseling homework," such as saying hello to three new people or describe three students who are having fun.
Her satisfaction comes when the students complete that homework.
"When kids realize they do have some power over their own destiny, they're much happier people and their grades come up," she said.
She and her husband, Jack, moved to Carson City in 1980 where she got a job as a counselor at Carson Junior High. Since then, she has worked at schools throughout the district before returning to Carson Middle School.
"This is where my husband and I wanted to raise a family," she said. "We wanted to raise our children in a house with a sidewalk and a white-picket fence."
They have two children, Evan, 21, a junior at UNR and Stephen, 17, a senior at Carson High School.