The celebration may have confused some of the people driving through the Williamsport Regional Airport parking lot, but for one local school counselor, it showed the support of her family and friends, plus teachers, parents and students who she has positively affected.
Alice Weiler, a counselor at Loyalsock Valley Elementary School, knew something was suspicious when she found out a Montoursville fire truck would take her to the airport so she could fly to Washington, D.C., Sunday afternoon, instead of having to drive herself. Weiler is a finalist for the 2013 School Counselor of the Year.
"(In my heart) I've already won," Weiler said to those gathered to cheer for her, explaining how happy she was. "This is because of you."
Alice Weiler, right, a counselor at Loyalsock Valley Elementary School, is greeted by well-wishers with signs and streamers before she leaves by plane for Washington, D.C. Weiler is a finalist for the American School Counselor Association 2013 School Counselor of the Year.
She first was nominated as the Pennsylvania Elementary School Counselor of the Year because of her dedication to her students and staff, but also for her help during last year's flooding, said school principal Darrin L. Feerrar.
"She does whatever she can do to help the students and staff have a great day," Feerrar said.
After the flooding, she was one of the first on the scene to help people get over their fears from the aftermath.
Her being a finalist means that not only will people in the state know what a great counselor she is, but also across the nation, he said.
"We're so proud of her," Feerrar said.
For Weiler, seeing people lining the sidewalk with signs, streamers and loud cheers, it felt like a dream. In fact, she said she kept asking people to pinch her because she thought she was in a dream.
"I don't need a plane," Weiler said, because she already was "flying high on good wishes."
Those good wishes were apparent in the neon signs that the students, parents and staff waved, some of which read: "Good luck, Mrs. Weiler." "We are proud of you." "Never give up." "Shoot for the stars."
Weiler will return to the area today after her final interview. She will be back at work Tuesday, which Feerrar explained is what she wants.
" 'This is great..., but when can I get back to my kids?' " he said of Weiler.
Last Friday, students and staff wished her well at school. The staff then decided it would be a good idea to also greet her outside the airport, so within a few days it was organized.
Feerrar said they worked with her husband to find when she planned to arrive so they could surprise her, which seemed to work.
"I was in total shock when I drove up and saw the fire truck," Weiler said.
The fire truck was driven by assistant chief and school board member Scott Konkle.
The 2013 School Counselor of the Year winner will be announced Feb. 1. At the end of January, Weiler will return to Washington with Feerrar, he said.
The finalists are chosen based on school counseling innovations, effective counseling programs, leadership and advocacy skills and contributions to student advancement, according to the American School Counselor Association.