Rachel Boyatt Lynch, who has served Fairview-Marguerite Elementary as school counselor for the past 14 years, is her school’s Teacher of the Year.
She earned her B.S. from East Tennessee State University and her M.A. from Carson-Newman University.
She organizes and presents schoolwide training on bullying, child abuse, suicide, and human trafficking prevention. She also provides individual and group counseling for students.
“It is difficult for children to learn if they are unable to control strong emotions or express themselves confidently to others,” Lynch said. “Guidance class is a place where students can begin to build their self-confidence and learn how to appropriately deal with conflict. An individual needs these skills to be able to function in the classroom and the world at large.”
During the 2019-2020 school year, problem-solving skills were the focus in second grade guidance classes.
Lynch introduced problem-solving strategies in guidance class for struggling students and supported teachers as they integrated these skills into their classrooms.
“These students, now third graders, can still be seen using the skills introduced in second grade,” she said. “Identifying effective problem-solving strategies in this grade has benefited the school community as a whole.”
Noting that students’ lives changed dramatically last year when school was closed due to the pandemic, Lynch developed content for her school system to help students manage the strong emotions they might have been having related to the changes in their lives.
“Many students have still not returned to the school building and are now learning virtually,” she said. “I have continued to meet with these virtual students to work on time-management skills, establishing good study habits, and the development of a work space free of distractions. The development of these skills, along with reinforcement from their homeroom teacher, has helped these students continue to thrive in this new setting.”
This school year has brought about a lot of challenges and stressors that teachers had never faced.
After surveying teachers and identifying specific needs related to our new school environment, potential solutions were developed to help teachers adapt. One such solution was to pair up teachers to help with identified needs.
After reviewing behavior data from the 2014-2015 school year, it was noted that new students were increasingly involved, either as the target or perpetrator, of reported verbal bullying incidents.
“I felt that this problem was occurring because new students were not building connections with their classmates, which was leading to relationship problems,” she shared.
Data showed that rising fourth graders were involved in 23% of reported bullying incidents, so she arranged a classroom schedule change to meet with a small group of students during their lunchtime.
The group was made up of a mix of new and existing students from the same classroom. Students played games and discussed events that were occurring in their lives.
“This allowed students to get to know people that they might normally interact with and discover things they had in common in the hopes of building friendships and reducing reported bullying incidents,” she said.
The following school year this program, called Lunch Bunch, was implemented in third and fourth grade. “In its first year, this program showed a small reduction in reported verbal bullying incidents. Also, there was only one incident of reported bullying behaviors that involved a new student to our school.”
The goal of developing stronger classroom connections had been achieved.
Many students graduate from high school lacking in the skills they need to succeed in a job interview.
Working with other Hamblen County elementary school counselors and the Central Office CTE (Career and Technical Education) staff, the Handshake Challenge was started to help fifth grade students begin to develop soft skills for which future employers are looking.
This challenge assessed students on their ability to confidently introduce himself or herself and carry on a conversation with someone they did not know.
Community leaders were invited to schools to participate in this challenge. Students were able to speak to these leaders and learn something about what this person does in the community.
“This challenge was held for two years and hopefully will continue once Covid precautions come to an end,” she said.
Her partnership with the Hamblen County UT Extension office also connects students to their community.
An employee from the UT Extension office has visited her guidance classroom to present a series of lessons on health and nutrition.
“These lessons introduce my students to the different services that this office offers along with providing information on the importance of healthy eating, hygiene and exercise,” she explained.
At Fairview, Lynch serves as a member of the Leadership Team, Parent Involvement Committee, Art Committee, is coordinator for the Healthy School Team, and is a mentor teacher.
Lynch and her daughter, Jill, are members of First Baptist Church of Dandridge, where she works in Vacation Bible School. She also serves the Girl Scouts as a Brownie Troop Leader.
In her free time, Lynch enjoys spending time with her husband, Gene, and daughter, Jill. Her hobbies include crocheting and reading.