By CRISTINA JANNEY
Hays USD 489 honored teacher Amy Wasinger with November’s Best of the Best award for her work with a student and his service dog.
Wasinger, a second- and third-grade teacher at O’Loughlin Elementary School, was nominated by parent Roberta Molstad for Wasinger’s help integrating her son Andrew’s service dog, Pickles, into her classroom and the school. Andrew has autism.
“It meant so much,” Molstad said. “You have to love animals, and you have to love children. We are so fortunate that she was willing to take that on.”
Wasinger also took time out of her own schedule to form a relationship with Andrew. During the summer, she met with him at the library, played trains with him and blocks and took him for ice cream, so his first days of school went better. She met him at the school in the summer to show him where his desk would be and where Pickles’ bed would be to reduce his anxiety.
“She always went above and beyond to help Andrew be included,” Molstad said. “She always went out of her way to make him feel loved. Andrew developed leaps and bounds with her. He looked forward to going to school every single day to see Mrs. Wasinger.”
Andrew built a car track at home for her, and Wasinger stopped by the Molstads’ home to look at the car track.
Andrew and Wasinger have matching puzzle piece autism shoes, and Andrew really likes her to wear the matching shoes.
“Amy was always positive about Andrew even when it was a bad day,” Molstad said. “She always found the positive in it. She took time to ask him what was bothering him. We were so blessed to have a wonderful, caring teacher who took on Andrew’s challenges and turned them into positive experiences. I honestly can’t say enough about Mrs. Wasinger. Thank you for all you do.”
Even though Wasinger is not Andrew’s teacher this year, she still helps out. They still exchange hugs. When Andrew is having a rough day and doesn’t want to go to school, Wasinger will meet Andrew at the van at drop off to encourage him.
In the nomination for Wasinger, Andrew also included a note, saying “I love you,” to his favorite teacher.
Hays High School sophomore Kenna Pfannenstiel was nominated by Sue Ann Tebo, Hays High School family consumer science teacher, and Sue Rouse, HHS staff member, for the student Best of the Best Award.
Pfannenstiel was a student in Tebo’s freshman life management class. She invited a guest from Jana’s Campaign to talk to the students about relationships. Jana’s Campaign set up bystander intervention training for the students, in which Pfannenstiel participated.
“Immediately after the training, Kenna came up to me and said, ‘Mrs. Tebo, I love this stuff. I want to get more involved. What can I do to help?’ ” Tebo said.
This year, the high school had two full days of training, and Pfannenstiel was fully involved. Jana’s Campaign coordinated eight trainings for all the HHS freshman, and Pfannenstiel volunteered for all eight of the trainings.
Pfannenstiel also helped raise money from community members and businesses so all the students who took the training could get free Jana’s Campaign bracelets and T-shirts.
“Kenna definitely has a strong desire to be the change that our society definitely needs today,” Tebo said.
Tebo described the training.
“Our bystander training helps individuals recognize inappropriate behaviors, and it teaches them how to step up, step in, if it is a safe situation, and try to intervene in the behavior and the situation. Keeping their safety in mind, students can direct or divert or delegate to defuse the unwanted situations,” she said.
Tebo praised Pfannenstiel’s work with Jana’s Campaign.
“Kenna was definitely an integral part of the domestic violence training,” Tebo said. “Her positive guidance and her eagerness to learn and help, not only helping with me, but all of my students as well along with her leadership abilities — it is just absolutely outstanding. Thank you so much, Kenna. She is awesome.”