FHSU Alum, lifelong learner, and Hays teacher focuses on students during difficult times

By Boyce Durr on August, 27 2021

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After more than 25 years working in Hays public schools, Amy Wasinger is familiar to many people in the Hays community. But what few of them know is the extent to which Wasinger has gone to expand her knowledge and skills within the teaching profession. A Fort Hays State University alum, Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s in special education, both at FHSU. She has also gone on to earn National Board Certification (NBPTS), something accomplished by only a relatively small group of teachers. She has also acquired an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) endorsement from FHSU, became certified as a reading specialist and Reading Recovery teacher, and is currently working to become a facilitator for LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling).

Wasinger initially began working with students with behavior disorders at Westside Alternative School before moving into Special Education at O’Loughlin Elementary School. She then worked as a regular classroom teacher in a 2nd/3rd-grade loop at O’Loughlin, before becoming a reading specialist working with Title 1 and Reading Recovery.  

A true example of a lifelong learner, Wasinger continues to take on new challenges. When asked what motivates her, she says, “I just like to learn new things.” Willingness to learn new things is part of what makes her successful in a profession where many do not last very long. While there is some debate about the exact numbers, studies indicate that anywhere between 40 and 50 percent of new teachers leave the teaching profession within their first five years, and early indications are that COVID-19 will likely increase these trends.

Dedicated to her profession and the success of her students, Wasinger believes, “a successful teacher must love working with kids.” Above all else, “successful teachers want to help all of their students succeed.” According to Wasinger, “All kids are different, all classes are different, and you need to be flexible and adjust to fit the needs of each child and each situation.”

Whether teaching from home on Zoom or in the classroom, the need to meet the students “where they are” was prominent for Wasinger. Meeting students’ needs was highlighted by the sudden changes all schools were forced to make at the beginning of the COVID crisis. According to Wasinger, “having to change on-a-dime was hard on the kids, kind of traumatic, as we didn’t have any kind of closure.” COVID forced schools to reexamine what was most important. “The first thing we did was figure out how to get food to the kids. We all showed up at the school and started handing out meals.” An example of what Wasinger means by meeting the needs of each student, going beyond just academics, and focusing on the social-emotional aspects of teaching. A successful teacher is willing and able to meet these emotional needs while also teaching the materials in their subject areas and helping students reach their academic goals.

Both organization and flexibility proved crucial for teachers managing the COVID crisis. These elements are often cited as critical components of successful teachers. According to Wasinger, “These qualities are essential for successful teachers in any given year but became key to enduring the COVID-19 changes.”

When asked about how her FHSU experiences prepared her for a future in education, Wasinger replied, “while some classes were more effective than others, overall, they did a great job with learning the content. The most helpful courses were ones where we were able to watch and interact with kids. We even had courses where kids came in, and we had little cubicles where we tutored them. These hands-on learning opportunities, along with internships and student teaching, were probably the most valuable things that I did.” She went on to say, “I definitely learned a lot. So much was based on the professors you get and how well they are able to convey information, and I had many great professors. I feel like Fort Hays prepared me well. I couldn’t have done any better had I gone anywhere else. I’m from far Western Kansas, and I like Hays so much that I stayed."

Amy Wasinger 2Amy Wasinger - O’Loughlin Elementary School Special Education Teacher 

 

Boyce Durr

It has been nearly 25 years since I entered my first class as a High School English teacher in the wonderful little town of Prairie Home, Missouri. I loved teaching high school and thought I might do this for my entire career. However, plans change, life happens, and some opportunities have to be taken. My name is Boyce D. Durr. I have both a B.A. in English and an M.A.E. in English education from Truman State University in Missouri and a Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning from New York University. Since teaching high school, I have worked at NYU, Queens College, Virginia Polytechnic University, Kaplan University, and Radford University before transitioning back to the Midwest, where I now work as a writer and marketing editor at Fort Hays State University. I spent much of my career helping students develop their writing. Now I look forward to putting these skills to work at FHSU, sharing some of the fantastic stories found here at Tiger Nation.

 


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