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Monday, September 16, 2019

Fort Thomas Schools Staff and Faculty Earn Global Leader Awards


Amy Shaffer (l) of the Fort Thomas Education Foundation congratulates Highlands staff member Nancy Gesenhues and Guy Ponzer on their Global Leader awards.

By Robin Gee

Five people in the Fort Thomas Independent Schools District were honored at the September school board meeting with Global Leader Awards.

The awards honor those whose contributions to Fort Thomas schools and community exemplify the qualities identified in the Portrait of a Graduate initiative. The winners’ contributions touch on one or several of the core competencies/roles identified in the program: Global Communicator, Empathetic Collaborator, Curious Critical Thinker, Creative Problem Solver and Courageous Leader.

Nancy Gesenhues and Guy Ponzer collaborate for schools' success


The Fort Thomas Education Foundation, represented by Executive Director Amy Shaffer and Chair Liz Younger, nominated two people as Empathetic Collaborators for their hard work helping to ensure Foundation events go smoothly, even in the midst of building moves and other challenges. The Foundation honored Highlands High School Cafeteria Manager Nancy Gesenhues and Custodian Guy Ponzer.

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"Over the years, Nancy and Guy and their teams have gone above and beyond to make sure the Foundation club experience in the high school cafeteria is perfect for our 70-plus family members each year. Not only is the place squeaky clean, but the supplies we need are always available and organized. Nancy is always willing to collaborate with us on menus, ordering and other logistics to make sure we offer a quality menu on a managed budget. Guy and his team make sure the space is clean before and after the event doing double work on home football game nights," said Shaffer.

She pointed out that this partnership and collaboration was essential during the recent school moves, and in preparing for the opening of school. "It was crucial to ensure we could host our first event of the year without disruption...We can say with certainty that the success of the FTF club would not be near what it is without the collaboration and teamwork of Nancy and Guy and their teams. They should take personal pride, not only in this award but in the fact that they helped raise over $50,000 annually for our schools and students so we can continue our tradition of excellence."

Ryan Augustin brings together the community to honor those we've lost



Highlands Middle School teacher Amy Fry (l) nominated her colleague Ryan Augustin (r) for a Global Leader award.

Teacher Ryan Augustin was nominated for a Global Leader award by his colleague Amy Fry for the care he took in supporting an event to honor two beloved Fort Thomas students whom the school lost.

Fry explained, "I nominated Ryan for this award. He’s been the HMS student council sponsor for the past three years... most recently, it was his endeavor regarding the Fly Free Dance and Cheer Competition that stood out to me and stood out to the community. The goal of the event was simple, but it was important. It was to honor and remember our two amazing students that we’ve lost, Michelle Chalk and Lilliana Schalck. Under Ryan’s direction, the council planned this event from start to finish. Hours upon hours of time and energy were spent to prepare for the event. Ryan was there every step of the way."


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Not only did the event help raise funds for a Memorial Garden, but it also brought the Fort Thomas community closer together, Fry said.

Joy Layman sets young students on the right path


A Fort Thomas parent nominated Woodfill teacher Joy Layman for a Global Leader award for her care in teaching the youngest students.

Woodfill Kindergarten teacher Joy Layman also was honored as a Courageous Leader. A parent (who remained anonymous) wrote, "When I look at the word courageous it says ‘not deterred by danger or pain, brave.’ I believe it takes a brave person to educate kindergartners. I don’t think, necessarily, that kindergartners are dangerous or painful, but more because they are the smallest and most needy of our students. When you think about a kindergartner it is important to remember they are five or six years old. They need a lot of direction and assistance just to stay safe while learning. Joy Layman lives this definition out daily. She works alongside our students to make sure they get the direction and attention they need to grow."


Her nominator also said they believe it is the great start students receive with Layman that instills a love of school and learning. She works closely to involve families and give them opportunities to be a part of their child’s classroom experience. "Thank you, Joy, for being a leader and making school a place where my kids love to go," the parent said.

Nina Kearns models Portrait of a Graduate as an educator and as a parent



AP Psychology teacher and Fort Thomas mom Nina Kearns (middle) was nominated for a Global Leader award by teachers Allyson Jones (l) and Tina Reynolds (r).

AP Psychology teacher Nina Kearns rounded out the group of Global Leader Award honorees. Two Woodfill teachers, Tina Reynolds and Allyson Jones, honored Kearns as both a teacher and a parent. Reynolds said she read through the list of traits of a Global Leader and found the Kearns exemplifies three roles, as Courageous Leader, Creative Problem Solver and as Empathetic Collaborator.

"The first is Courageous Leader... [Kearns] was a Portrait of a Graduate leader before a Portrait of a Graduate was a thing. My daughter was in her class eight years ago. She was in multiple AP courses, several advanced classes, early bird, and she was way beyond stressed, but she’d come home talking about her education class with Nina. She would say things like 'I go into her room and I just feel like me' 'I can be myself, I can express myself, but I’m more challenged in that class than I am in my AP classes or my early bird, because Mrs. Kearns just expects that of me.'"

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Reynolds’ daughter is now a teacher and says she still uses strategies she learned in Kearns’ class. Reynolds also said, as a mom, she felt Kearns was an Empathetic Collaborator. Kearns coached her daughter while she was on the school’s soccer team.

"It wasn’t like there was a coach and there was a team, they were altogether. She was one of them, they were her," Reynolds explained. "They were a very competitive championship team that year, but it was because the girls loved her and they looked up to her."

Lastly, Reynolds spoke of Kearns’ own role as a mother whose children are Woodfill students. She stands out as a Creative Problem Solver. "I had the pleasure of teaching her three children, and this is probably one of the toughest hardcore moms there is, but her kids get it. She would never make excuses for them. If they forgot their iPad, they dealt with forgetting their iPad...but I knew they were going home and having those table discussions."

Kearns would let her children come up with their own solutions to problems, and with that Reynolds felt Kearns was collaborating with her. "Nina is just a Portrait of a Graduate for all of us," Reynolds said.

Anyone in the community can nominate any other community member for a Global Leader Award. Honorees are honored with a plaque from the Fort Thomas Independent Schools Board.

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