LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Shannon Fryar

Position: School Counselor
School: Elkhorn Middle School
School District: Franklin County Public Schools
City, State: Frankfort, KY

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Music that Describes Shannon

Shannon Fryar was nominated by her colleague, Beckee Seals.

"Every person is defined by the communities she belongs to," - Orson Scott Card, American writer.

Ms. Fryar grew up in Frankfort, Kentucky and found herself coming full circle when she began her education career in the same school she attended as a middle school student. Her mission as an educator is empowering future generations to make change. With her work through various programs, she wants to connect the gap between schools and the community. Ms. Fryar may only have middle school students for a short time, but she is determined to help them become contributing members of society. She wants them to be proud of the school and community they belong to. 

During her first year as a math teacher, she struggled to understand why her students weren't performing well in the classroom. When asked why she transitioned to being a school counselor, she reflected on a former student who struggled academically.

"I noticed he never completed his homework and was always tired in class. I sat down with him one afternoon and asked what was going on. He said the electricity was cut off at home, and when he got off the bus, he had to help his family with chores. By the time he finished with chores, it was too dark in the house for him to work on homework," said Fryar.

She knew then that she would never be able to teach any student math if their needs were unmet. Teachers often don't understand that some students do not go home to what that teacher would consider "home." Some students struggle in ways that many teachers/administrators don't understand. For example, they might worry about whether or not they are going to get dinner, or whether their parents will come home that evening. They might worry about how to clean their clothes (as they got bullied at school for that exact reason) or whether or not they will be evicted from their home. She needed to help her students, their families, and the community. She needed to make a difference outside of the classroom. Ms. Fryar spent the following years getting her Master's and Education Specialist Degrees (Rank I) in School Counseling from The University of the Cumberlands. 

In the Frankfort community, over 800 children are impacted by parental incarceration. Kentucky's incarceration rate is more than double the national average. Parental incarceration is an adverse childhood experience that has been referred to as a "shared sentence" due to the short and long-term effects it has on children. Those statistics led Ms. Fryar to start a KRUSH (Kids Rising Up through Support and Healing) group at her school after attending a training. It is a support group for kids who have or have had a family member incarcerated. Her personal experience has led her to relate to students on a more vulnerable level that many can't. She knows firsthand the effects incarceration and addiction can have on a child. 

The Wanda Joyce Robinson Foundation (WJRF) helps support the KRUSH groups in our community. When Ms. Fryar heard of the Wanda Joyce Robinson Foundation operating in the community and schools, she knew she could positively impact students served through the foundation by integrating their services with her own. Her motivation to work with WJRF comes from her own experience with family members struggling with addiction. She reminds students that their parents' choices are not their fault. Each child has their own experience, and she wants them to know they have a purpose and can rise above their circumstances to become productive members of society. Ms. Fryar is the Video Visitation Coordinator for the community. Ms. Fryar sets up weekly video visits for students to have contact with their incarcerated parents. This weekly visit is the only contact some students have with their family members, provided free through the foundation. 

From the start of being a teacher, Ms. Fryar has taken on many leadership roles. She served as a grade-level team leader for numerous years, as well as the academic team coach. She became a mentor for new teachers and has been the yearly coordinator for our incoming 6th-grade transition program, Jumpstart. This yearly summer program helps incoming students prepare for middle school life. 

Ms. Fryar became focused on making changes within the school. She served as the Site-Based Decision Making Council secretary and then was voted in as a member, where she served a two-year term. As a team leader, Ms. Fryar coordinated a mentoring program with the Kentucky State University's men's basketball team to speak to eighth-grade students with at-risk behavior and academic failure. She participated in the University of Louisville's statistics research studies for mathematics teachers and presented at the annual SREB conference in Atlanta in 2015 on the Mathematics Design Collaborative. Ms. Fryar has served on the Kentucky Department of Education's Mathematics Review Committee for the statewide summative assessment and was awarded Teacher of the Year by her school in 2015-2016. 

As a counselor, Ms. Fryar continues her leadership by being a member of the Franklin County Community Council and Franklin County's Agency for Substance Abuse Policy (ASAP). Through ASAP, Ms. Fryar obtained a yearly $500 grant to start a Parent University. Ms. Fryar saw a need within her school and the community to have a monthly program that offered free classes on various educational topics such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse prevention, social media safety, etc. During the summer, she helped organize Family Fun Day for the community, led by a local mental health agency. Ms. Fryar believes that when schools work with families to support learning, students perform better in school and throughout life. 

Ms. Fryar remains an active member of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) and the Kentucky School Counselor Association (KSCA), who named her the 2021 Kentucky Middle School Counselor of the Year. She was elected to the Kentucky School Counselor Association Board as Middle School VP this year.

She has big plans for the future, like wanting to get her school and district RAMP-certified and continue to make her schools trauma-informed. Ms. Fryar was certified as a Bounce Trainer because of her passion for learning about trauma. She can train individuals on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and how they impact our students and families. Through her work on trauma, Ms. Fryar focuses on helping students become resilient. She strives to know as many of her school's 750 students by name and connect with them on a personal level. Ms. Fryar helps them realize they are more than a face in the building. She carries their pain when they talk about depression or being sexually assaulted. Ms. Fryar grieves with them when they've lost a loved one or share about the domestic violence in their home. She wants to be an advocate for the voices that feel hidden.

Like the students she works with, Ms. Fryar does not like to ask for help; she would rather help and provide for others. Ms. Fryar is self-motivated; having to put herself through college and take on many jobs to avoid monstrous student loans, she succeeded on her own terms. To this day, Ms. Fryar continues to work multiple jobs to maintain her family and provide the best experiences for her children. She spends her summers as the master scheduler, ensuring all 750 students are scheduled into the correct classes, and she continues to help with summer programs.

Ms. Fryar is focused on creating a comprehensive school counseling program aligned with the American School Counseling Association's national standards to meet students' academic, career, and social/emotional development needs. As a teacher, she reached out to colleges and universities nationwide to request pennants to hang in the hallways to remind students to dream big. She is currently piloting a social-emotional learning program with our 7th graders through Empowering Confident Youth. Ms. Fryar wants our students to become successful adults who contribute to their communities, have healthy relationships, and make wise decisions regarding their future. 

Here are some comments from those that work with her:

"Mrs. Fryar is an excellent co-worker and counselor. If a student needs help, Mrs. Fryar meets with them as quickly as possible. Students open up to her quickly, so she is obviously able to relate to them and make them feel very comfortable. Mrs. Fryar runs many group counseling sessions like KRUSH, Kindness Club, and a grief group for students with close family members who have passed away. She has formed a peer mentor group and paired struggling students up with other students who can guide them and be a friend to them. Students are very grateful to have groups like this. Knowing others are facing the same issues they face has allowed them to feel more comfortable at school and among their peers. 

She is also in charge of student schedules and helps with state-mandated testing. She is incredibly organized and is accommodating to teachers when schedules need to be changed. She is very knowledgeable about the school in general and is a wonderful resource for newer teachers. She also is flexible and fills in when needed. 

Mrs. Fryar always puts students first. She is an invaluable staff member, and everyone at EMS is lucky to have her." 

Andy Cosby, Science Teacher 

"She is an amazing listener. She makes time for all. She follows through with what she says and goes above and beyond for our students daily!"

Crystal Hughes, Assistant Principal.

"She is competent at her job. She can handle multiple difficult situations at a time and has a welcoming and calming demeanor that puts everyone at ease."

Lori Dowler, in-school MH Therapist

"Ms. Fryar is cool. I can talk freely with her, and she makes me feel comfortable."

J. Weathers, a student in KRUSH

"Shannon is the type of person to pay attention to details. She is organized and always thinking ahead. When she sees a need, she immediately starts brainstorming ways to help ensure those needs are met. Shannon thinks outside the box and does whatever it takes to ensure the students at our school have what they need physically, mentally, and educationally in order to be successful. She always remains calm during a crisis and knows what needs to be done to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Shannon loves every student unconditionally, which shows in how she cares for them. I love how she interacts with students, whether it be a hug in the hallway at dismissal or a high five to a student who is proud of an accomplishment they have achieved. Shannon is always there to encourage and guide our students through the happy moments and tough times. She is a great role model to not only our student body, but our staff as a whole. EMS is beyond lucky to have Shannon Fryar as a counselor."

Meagan Morrow, School Social Worker

Ms. Fryer is a great person who gets involved and shows her concern. My son is in jail, and I have custody of his son (my grandson). Ms. Fryar does the weekly video visits so my son can see his own son. That is the only way he gets to see him because I cannot get him to the jail. This really means a lot to us. He likes Ms. Fryar very much, and she makes him comfortable."

Pam Woolums, Guardian of a student

"I work with Ms. Fryar because she is very kind and always listens to my problems."

L. Capley, a student of KRUSH

"Working with middle school students is a special kind of calling. They're going through puberty, developing their worldview, testing the limits of their power/influence, learning social norms, etc. It is no easy task to navigate these situations alongside students, working diligently to create the softest landing possible amidst life's stressors. However, this difficult task looks effortless when Shannon Fryar is involved. Watching her love students and fight for their joy is one of the most powerful things I have had the privilege to witness.

As I type this, Shannon is leading a grief group for 6th graders in a classroom down the hall. She saw a need and did what was necessary to help these students through their journey of grief. They meet weekly to talk about their loved ones, share memories, find solace in their shared experiences, and feel the comfort and safety that Mrs. Fryar emanates to whoever she's around.

Yesterday, she mediated arguments, counseled students individually, planned events for the Kindness Club, and led a group for students who have an incarcerated parent. She also organized two suicide risk assessments with a local mental health hospital, made numerous parent phone calls, did hallway checks with students, etc.

Her days are filled with giving everything she has, and her evenings are no different. The minute her work day ends, Shannon puts on her mom hat. She is raising three beautiful children, all under the age of 10. She ensures that her kids have everything they need and works hard to give them amazing experiences and memories they will cherish. The woman literally doesn't stop caring for others from the minute she wakes up until the minute she goes to bed at night. 

Being a school counselor comes so naturally to Shannon. She finds joy in what she does, and it seems to give her a certain energy that is contagious. You can tell when she has a great new idea or has found a way to meet a student's need because she almost hops into our offices to share it with us, as if she can't contain her excitement. 

When I think of a LifeChanger, I think of Shannon Fryar. I cannot even begin to imagine how many lives she has changed and futures she has impacted because of her commitment to the emotional health of students and their families. She is so deserving of recognition but would never seek it. She is content to continue working hard on the sidelines, rooting for all of us to win. It is time she realized that her diligence and goodness do not go unnoticed. We're all rooting for her, too."

Katie Robinson, School Counselor (works with Ms. Fryar)

Comments (25)

Jessica Pelfrey Posted over a year ago

I am a teacher at EMS and have known Ms. Fryar for a few years. Admittedly, we didn’t know each other very well due to teaching different subjects and grade levels. She always seemed nice and I had heard good things about her as a math teacher. She seemed very quiet so when I heard she was becoming one of our school counselors I was taken aback. I had barely heard her speak and talking intimately with others is now going to be her job? She always seemed so shy. LOL Within a very short time I got to know her a bit more through personal conversations about our own children as well as our “kids” at school. She is competent and knowledgeable about scheduling and all of the necessary paperwork and things that get put on a school counselor’s plate, but it was her quiet passion, initiation, and understanding that made me want to be like her when I grow up (even though I’m a few years older than her). Over time she has gotten to know about my history and why I went into teaching and I feel like I can talk with her about anything. Obviously, I am very happy for her nomination and love that she is being recognized for the amazing things she has done and is doing continuously. That brings me to why I am writing this short novel. It is a new year and a lot of people are talking about their “word” of the year. I was up thinking about mine and after much debate about which vast array of self love, I am enough, present, acceptance, etc. words that are supposed to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, I was left with the undeniable fact that I, personally, am never going to love and accept myself if I am in a constant state of “need to do” thinking. That being said, the concept of balance is important to me and it is a favorite word of mine. So, my word of the year is DO. I am so sick and tired of repeating the phrase “I need to do that” to myself and others that it festers in my brain and heart and souls like a worm through an apple. Which is an apt image for me seeing as how I’m a bookworm and a teacher. Apples and teachers and worm…never mind. I know that doesn’t mean I have to change the world, finish all of my book ideas, be a best selling author, inspire people from all over the world and help every kid I can to reach their potential and change the trajectory of their lives, but I can do a heck of a lot more than I am now. Even if it means little basic things for myself. I can blame it on ADHD, executive dysfunction, and all kinds of acronyms, but I am tired of feeling like a failure. I am changing the sentence. I need to do that. I am doing that. I have done that. So, long story short, this morning I looked at a hamper of clothing in my five year old daughter’s room and thought, “I need to do that.” I began doing it. I came across a small pile I had set aside for donations (a million years ago) because my daughter had outgrown them. “I need to do that” entered my mind and I yelled at myself. “I am doing that!” With new resolve I briefly thought about anyone I knew that could use some girl clothes. Lo and behold, Shannon Fryar came to mind. Then, I wondered how her life changer nomination was going, so I looked it up on the school’s FB page and saw the link that was posted saying people’s comments help with the selection. “I need to do that” I thought and had been thinking for the last month. I yelled at myself again-I do that a lot- I’ll work on that next year. “I am doing that right now!” So, here I am “doing” and I’m almost “done” and when I read Ms.Seals’ nomination letter I was so impressed with everything Ms. Fryar had DONE and is doing in her short time as our school counselor and before that; some of which I didn’t even know she had started herself. Did I mention she has three young kids? Did I also mention she looks fabulous everyday? Did I mention she wouldn’t ever dream of bragging or drawing attention to herself for all of the things she quietly does behind the scenes that speak so loudly in our school, community, and hearts? “I have DONE my personal contribution to support my friend and colleague.” YAY! Now, I need to work on my daughter’s closet.

Laura B Branham Posted over a year ago

I've worked over the years in many capacities with Mrs. Fryar, first as a math teacher. She was very knowledgable and always going above to help students and fellow teachers. She would work with students at other times than classtime to help them grow in their math skills. As a counselor she is outstanding. Always there for students and adults in the building. She has a way of calming students down when needed for various reasons. She works to come up with different ways to help all of us, students who struggle and teachers to find ways to help all in our classroom. She brougth in the SEL program for the 7th graders as a pilot program this year. It is to help them gain strenght in coping skills, confidence, goals and more for now and their future. She has worked very hard over the past few years on our students schedules. She helps the 8th graders get ready for high school and has worked with several programs to help them. Overall a positive, outgoing person who geniuely cares about students and staff. We are blessed to have her as part of our family.

dennis ledford Posted over a year ago

Shannon is a low maintenance co-worker. She helps you with any needs you may have as a special educator, and is prompt and you only need to ask once. She also is a forward thinker who often already has the needed support items done for other staff.

Deborah Willette Posted over a year ago

Shannon is a dedicated, caring counselor whose concern and devotion to the mental health of our students is impeccable. She reaches out to them regularly, supports their success in all ways, encouraging and providing them with opportunities to continue their wellness. She also sponsors our KRUSH program for students with incarcerated parents. They meet regularly to discuss issues, work on activities and support each other in their unique situations. This is just a small piece of Shannon's reach within our community. Overall, Shannon is so deserving of the recognition because of her continued efforts on behalf of our students.

Ava Adcock Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Fryar pushed me through math and never gave up on me during my 8th grade year. I have yet to have another teacher as patient and helpful as her throughout high school. I will always be thankful for having her as a teacher<3

Taylor Banta Posted over a year ago

When I attended Elkhorn Middle I was put on homebound for medical reasons. Ms. Fryar was assigned to be my homebound teacher and had to personally come to my home to teach me weekly. She was compassionate, so very patient and extremely helpful. She went above and beyond to help me academically while also being so caring and understanding of my situation. Not only would she take interest in my academics but also my well-being. I am still impacted by her kindness and compassion 6 years later. Ms. Fryar is truly one of a kind.

Brittney Wilson Posted over a year ago

My boys attend EMS and love Ms. Fryar! As a Mother, when I had a concern and spoke with Ms. Fryer, it was addressed and handled immediately. I am so grateful for her!

Michelle Early Posted over a year ago

Shannon Fryar host monthly Parent University classes. These classes go over different topics that our children face. They have helped me to communicate better with my child and how to navigate different things that may go on in my child's life. I look forward to the class. I also love that there is a counselor's corner in our newsletters that give parents questions to talk with our children and we have been told to reach out to Mrs. Fryar if our child's morning isn't going well or they are having a hard time, this is a prime example that she cares about our children, and they have someone they can trust and talk to if needed. She is definitely deserving of this award.

L. Roberts (parent) Posted over a year ago

As a parent of a 6th grade student, one who transferred in from private school, there were numerous questions and concerns that I have brought before Ms. Fryar over the course of these first few months. Regardless if they were questions that were within her responsibility or not, she has always been attentive, quick to respond to each and every one, and provides detail above and beyond to make sure that I always have the information that I need/requested. There is a great appreciation for a staff member to never seem bothered or inconvenienced by questions but rather always willing to help in any way they can and that is precisely what Ms. Fryar has done since day one. I am grateful for the passion she has for the job but more importantly her passion for the students demonstrated in her efforts to see them succeed academically while maintaining emotional health as well. I am thankful she is a part of EMS!

Elizabeth Jessica May Posted over a year ago

Shannon has made the biggest difference for my child (who is on the Autism spectrum) when he made his transition from private to public school almost 2 years ago. We were so nervous for our son to attend a larger school that he was unfamiliar with but through her patience he has thrived, become happy again and actually enjoys going to school! Thank you Shannon for everything you do for these students and the support you show them on a daily basis.

Christy Sapp Posted over a year ago

Shannon Fryar is a blessing to everyone she encounters. She is the essence of a true person of service and this is evident in her quiet and calm demeanor and her unrelenting compassion and desire to help those in need. Shannon loves the students at EMS and strives to empower them to rise above their trauma and struggles.

Amy Snow Posted over a year ago

I've had the incredible pleasure of working with Shannon Fryar for more than a decade. As a high school Youth Services Center coordinator, Shannon often joined me for our after school girls group meetings while working on her counseling degree. I remember being inspired by her commitment and sacrifice to further her education beyond the classroom setting. I have seen firsthand her love and care for students. Her work facilitating a weekly social-emotional group for more than 40 students impacted by incarceration is unparalleled. She creates a safe environment where students feel comfortable sharing some of their most vulnerable emotions. As a video visitation coordinator, she assists children with the opportunity to have a consistent, weekly visit with their incarcerated parent. In addition to working with those children, Shannon is able to build rapport with their caregiver, often helping them connect to a supportive community. Shannon is nothing short of AMAZING! Her dedication to children and to making our community a better place drives her to continuously seek resources and to be innovative. She IS a lifechanger!

Ellery Denny Posted over a year ago

As an employee of the Franklin County Health Department, I have seen the firsthand impact of Shannon's efforts on student's lives. She is highly involved in KRUSH and initiated an evidence based suicide prevention project, Sources of Strength, a gold standard of peer led suicide prevention efforts. Well deserved honor!

Kate Osterloh Posted over a year ago

Shannon Fryar has changed countless lives at Elkhorn Middle School and beyond. Shannon's most important skill is her patience. I have seen her with crying students, screaming students, raging students; none of it seems to faze Shannon. She listens quietly and allows people to feel their feelings. She understands that middle school students are young and full of hormones they do not understand. By allowing them the autonomy of their feelings, she is giving them ownership. That then turns into self-respect. Her work here at school is wonderful and I applaud her for it. But I would be remiss if I failed to mention her work in our community with the Wanda Joyce Robinson Foundation, which supports youth who have incarcerated family members. Before I knew Shannon, I never knew what an issue that was in our community. She brought the KRUSH program to our school and helped our faculty and staff understand what these students deal with. She also volunteers her time to help in the community, throwing Thanksgiving and Christmas parties for families, and helping them to make birthdays and holidays, and everyday, special. I am honored to know and work with Shannon Fryar and believe she is most-deserving of this award.

Cindy Couch Posted over a year ago

I can't think of a more deserving person for this award. I have know Shannon all of her life and there's not a more kind, caring person that truly cares about the warfare of her students.

Renaee Mckeehan Posted over a year ago

She’s a wonderful person!!

Holly Burke Posted over a year ago

I worked side by side Shannon Fryar during her time as a classroom teacher. She sets high expectations for all students and is there every step of the way for them. Students are able to go to Mrs. Fryar for math help to help determining their future career path. Shannon Fryar is deserving of all praise and will only continue to grow as an advocate for all students.

Whitney Bruce Posted over a year ago

Shannon puts everything she has into everything she does. She is the hardest working, most caring person I know. She gives beyond measure and positively impacts the lives of everyone she meets.

Chrissy Jones Posted over a year ago

As the former superintendent of Franklin County Schools, I had the pleasure of observing Ms. Fryar's continual growth as an educator from her developing as a teacher and then in the role of a school counselor. Ms. Fryar is truly an educator who puts Kids First. She is compassionate and strives to meet each child's needs. She was an excellent mathematics teacher, but her transition to school counseling, I believe, led her to her true calling. She strives to help all children and truly understands middle school children and their many intricacies. She is most deserving of this recognition with her continual commitment to making her community a better place for all, particularly the children of Franklin County.

ethan fine Posted over a year ago

MS.fryer has done so much for me and my peers. On the first day of school was my uncles funeral and she called out of class more then ones and did it for a whole week or two and i am now in her greif support group and she helpes me and evryone else and me with my loss

Janaya Clay Posted over a year ago

you change my life a lot you made me feel better about myself.

Stella Pollard Posted over a year ago

Shannon goes above and beyond for the students at Elkhorn. She always has an understanding, kind, and compassionate vibe about her that makes everyone feel welcome in her presence. She is an advocate for all children and a voice of reason. She helps kids regardless of their background and isn’t afraid to advocate for their needs. It’s an absolute honor to know her. I admire her talents.

Crystal Hughes Posted over a year ago

Shannon goes out of her way for students and staff. She is always willing to assist others. She has many years dedicate it to our school. She actually went to EMS as a middle schooler herself!

Julie Muravchick Posted over a year ago

Ms. Fryar has made me feel welcome to this school since the first day of school. She is always willing to help others and wants each individual student to feel special.

James Gambon Posted over a year ago

Shannon is always available to help students in need. I am a special education teacher where she works. Throughout the year my students have serious needs that I cannot help them without support. Shannon is a key support for him. She listens to what the problem is then assists to the best of her ability. She put kids needs ahead of her own always, and develops deep meaningful relationships with students. She is the best I've ever been around.