An Elgin school social worker is the 2017 Illinois Social Worker of the Year.
Mary Abbott, lead social worker at Abbott Middle School, will be recognized by the National Association of Social Workers-Illinois chapter at a banquet this fall. She is among three Illinois professionals being recognized for being among the best in the social work field.
Abbott was honored Monday by the Elgin Area School District U-46 school board for her 20 years of service and for leading all district social workers for five years with a certificate of achievement.
"It is such an honor to have been selected, as well as a humbling and exciting experience," said Abbott, a Larkin High School graduate. "Social work has made me a better person; I have grown in ways I never thought possible. It has opened my heart and my mind and my thinking. It has taught me about resiliency both in myself and within the students I work with."
Abbott thanked co-workers for their support. "So many district employees who have influenced and motivated, and helped me grow and succeed," she said. "I am very proud to be a social worker for all the ways I get to do what my heart leads me to do."
Abbott earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in social work from Aurora University. She started her career 25 years ago as a juvenile probation officer. She is an adjunct professor at Aurora University's graduate school of social work and also runs a small private practice providing psychotherapy to individuals, families and couples.
"Mary has a passion for trauma-informed care and building relationships with clients. She believes in connection, genuineness, and caring in order to empower change," according to the NASW-Illinois chapter website.
Ashley Talip, a social worker at Lowrie Elementary School in Elgin, led the effort to nominate Abbott for the award.
"The department agreed Mary is the definition of this award due to her advocacy for students' social and emotional needs across the district, and her outstanding leadership and guidance of more than 70 department social workers," Talip said.
A video featuring Abbott is at youtube.com/watch?v=5o5IUQCw424.