As a school counselor, Buddy Taylor Middle School Teacher of the Year Randi Fasnacht's job requires making connections with students. COVID-19 upended the usual processes. But she saw that as an opportunity.
"She counsels students on their academic struggles, but also goes deeper to find the root of the issue and works with the student and teachers to come up with a plan of action."
— CARA CRONK, principal, Buddy Taylor Middle School
"COVID has made it so much more difficult to connect face-to-face," she wrote in her Teacher of the Year application statement. "We don't get close. We are masked. We don't stand around for long lengths of time in each other's space. ... When I was first introduced to Schoology, Flipgrid and Zoom, I found a way to reach students in the middle of a pandemic. ... My way of connecting has expanded immensely. Now I can reach the students who would never say a word, but they are awesome at sharing through Schoology, email and Zoom."
Still, the sudden change has been tricky. It can be difficult for a school counselor to know quite how they're impacting a student even without the complications of remote access. Now, she is counseling a group of incoming online-learning students she has not met in person, who are themselves dealing with the difficulties of learning online.
"Our remote learners are the students who are struggling the most," she wrote.
Fasnacht, who holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education from the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota and a master's degree from the University of North Florida, began her career as a sixth-grade teacher in Minnesota in 1987, became a school counselor, then moved to Florida, starting in Putnam County as a teacher and counselor, then moving to Flagler Schools as a school counselor in 2005. She was the Teacher of the Year for Bunnell Elementary School in 2015.
"I find the most inspiration when I look at the resiliency of not only my students, but also when I look at the resiliency of the teachers, administration and staff I work with," Fasnacht wrote. "There is so much that we all go through (some more than others). To keep growing, learning, doing when there is so much 'noise' around us is truly inspiring. There is so much determination and dedication in our students, teachers and administration."
Buddy Taylor Middle School Principal Cara Cronk wrote in a letter of reference for Fasnacht's Teacher of the Year application that Fasnacht is always seeking out learning opportunities, such as the webinar she recently attended on helping teens deal with anxiety and stress.
"She has been educating and providing guidance and compassion to everyone she encounters for her entire career," Cronk wrote. "She counsels students on their academic struggles, but also goes deeper to find the root of the issue and works with the student and teachers to come up with a plan of action. As Randi works to resolve student issues, she creates meaningful relationships with each person."