Position: School Counselor
School: Little Miami Elementary School
School District: Little Miami Schools
City, State: Morrow, OH
Music that Describes Dawn
Dawn Gasper was nominated by her principal, Alison Gates.
"Small and mighty, the honey bee will travel an average of 36,000 miles in its lifetime. The entire species contributes more than 200 billion dollars in ecological services as pollinators to the planet's food system. At Little Miami Elementary School, we have our own species of honey bee called School Counselor extraordinaire Dawn Gasper," said Gates.
You may see her if you look very closely as she flies by from meeting with one of the community resource groups brought in to benefit students, or as she is on her way to meet with a family in need of support through a difficult season of life. You can sneak up and spot her on a Saturday morning working with a Boy Scout on his Eagle project or pruning the flowers in the sensory garden she maintains year-round as a benefit for kids who use nature as a regulation tool. Ms. Gasper may buzz by in her most significant role in her LMES hive as the positivity pollinator. Her positivity is contagious as she moves from classroom to classroom and student to student.
"Whether it is a smile, an affirmation of, 'you've got this,' or a snuggle from her worker bee (okay, we know he is really a dog), the mood instantly shifts," said Gates. "There is no doubt about it: our hive of staff and students has been changed by Mrs. Gasper's community presence, positivity, and support of students, families, and staff."
In cultures worldwide, bees are the ultimate symbol of harmony, community, and working together. Throughout her career as a School Counselor, Mrs. Gasper has fostered countless relationships with community members, businesses, and agencies that benefit the students and staff at Little Miami Elementary School daily. One example is a local business called Greenfield Plant Farm and its ownership. Through carefully cultivated professional relationship building, Mrs. Gasper has opened doors for students to have job shadowing experiences, school buildings to receive product and labor donations, and the district to have a community business partnership.
Another example of how students have benefited from her skills has been from outside therapy agencies coming in to provide services, such as Fernside Grieving, Cancer Family Care, and Brush of Hope. As the most senior School Counselor, Mrs. Gasper works with the other elementary counselors to improve the "master hive" of their district through consistency between building transitions and access to support for all students.
"The variety and richness of Mrs. Gasper's relationships have strengthened the members of our hive through access to community resources and adult mentors," said Gates. "In a hive, bees will take turns being supported in the middle of a warming circle when conditions warrant it. Over the years, many have witnessed Mrs. Gasper pull together a warming circle in our hive to support a family, student, or staff member in need. She never shies away from an opportunity to comfort someone in a way that feels like the whole hive is behind them without it being intrusive or embarrassing."
In a magic way only the best, most experienced School Counselor can, Mrs. Gasper will put her arm around you without exchanging a word and make it feel like the world will be alright again. Time and time again, the same testimony has been given by students and families over the years; Mrs. Gasper is always there when we need her. She has become like the actor Kevin Bacon in her town; it would take anyone less than five contacts to track down her cell phone number since she gives it out to all of her parents, grandparents, and anyone else who asks for it!
A few weeks ago, she was in Savannah, Georgia, for her niece's wedding. The entire time, she was texting with a student's parent because he needed comfort while his wife was going through cancer treatment. When she got back into town, she gathered "the hive" to determine if they needed to prepare a Thanksgiving meal for the family or help with Christmas. She never hesitated to pull the family into the warming circle because it's what she does to make the hive strong.
In a single day, a worker bee may visit up to 10,000 flowers to collect nectar and spread pollen! LMES has just over 850 students, and while it may feel like 10,000 on busy days, Mrs. Gasper's role as a positivity pollinator is one she takes very seriously in Little Miami Elementary School and the district as a whole. This year, she and her therapy dog/worker bee, Winston, began posting positive messages outside her centrally located office weekly with an overarching theme of kindness. She constantly gives positive affirmations to students and staff everywhere she goes, and she works with small groups on social skills that are sometimes needed as prerequisites for acting kindly.
Mrs. Gasper models kindness by going above and beyond to always remember the small things that make a big difference in someone's life, like asking about a family member or saying Happy Birthday. She regularly nominates staff and community members for the Panther Pride Award given by the Little Miami Board of Education. Those are the incremental culture shifts that will change the entire vibe of a hive over time when positivity is spread from one person to another consistently.
"Dawn Gasper is famous for three things at Little Miami Elementary School; the speed at which she moves/distance she covers in a school day, leaving her phone and glasses everywhere, and being the mom of Winston," said Gates. "She may never make the $200 billion revenue the honey bees bring in, but to the past, present, and future students, staff, and families of Little Miami, she is priceless and worth a lifetime of LifeChanger of the Year awards. Our hive is a thriving, healthy community because of the time, energy, and love she pours into it daily, which is worth its weight in gold (or honey) to us."