Adam Auerbach was just moving in as principal of Wolf Meadow Elementary five years ago and was determined that an office near the front of the school would make a great conference room.
The tenant of that office was Kim Baysinger, the school’s long-tenured speech/language pathologist who was skeptical of her new boss, who came across as young and brash. She wasn’t too keen on having to move her comfortable office to another part of the building.
Though they were initially unsure of how their relationship would unfold, Auerbach and Baysinger quickly realized how professionally talented the other one was and developed a supportive, mutual respect. That’s why Auerbach nominated Baysinger for the Cabarrus County Schools’ highest award in her field.
Last month, Baysinger was named the winner of the 2015-2016 Cabarrus County Schools’ Exceptional Children Teacher/Therapist of Excellence award. From Nov. 18-20, she will attend the Council for Exceptional Children Conference in Greensboro and be honored by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction at a dinner.
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“I was so humbled when they presented me with the award that I was the speechless speech pathologist,” said Baysinger.
Baysinger, a 53-year-old Midland resident, has worked in education for 30 years including 25 at Wolf Meadow. Formally, she is a speech/language pathologist, but you can also call her a speech therapist or a speech teacher. She is one of 50 that work for Cabarrus County Schools.
She does it all and does it exceptionally well.
Adam Auerbach, principal of Wolf Meadow Elementary
Aside from helping children develop speech and language skills, she is passionate about theater. Baysinger directs her school’s drama club and talent show and is also chairwoman of the program committee for the city of Concord’s Old Courthouse Theater.
“She could do anything she wanted to (professionally),” said Auerbach. “If she wanted to be a principal tomorrow, she would make me look bad and be one of the best around. If she wanted to be a kindergarten teacher, she could do that.
“Luckily for the kids who have speech-language needs, she wants to be a speech-language teacher. For the kids that want to be in drama club, she does drama club. She does it all and does it exceptionally well.”
In addition to her duties at Wolf Meadow, Baysinger is one of Cabarrus County Schools’ lead speech/language pathologists, meaning she provides direction to about 15 other pathologists at seven other elementary, middle and high schools in the county’s southern region.
This school year, Baysinger is also serving as a mentor to a clinical fellow – a speech/language pathologist-in-training – at Boger Elementary.
On a daily basis, Baysinger works with eight students on speech production (articulation) and another 12 on various language skills. On occasion, she may help students with fluency skills, or voice sound issues.
Baysinger spent part of a recent morning leading a handful of students through five-minute breakout articulation sessions. Traversing the school, Baysinger pulled students from classrooms into the hallway or cafeteria to help them sound out words.
A second grade boy needed to work on his “R” sounds.
“I’m going to give you the ‘R’ word and you’re going to curl your ‘R’ in the back of your mouth,” she said before announcing the first word. “Er-rabbit, er-rabbit.”
“I like bunny rabbits,” he said, forming his own sentence.
“I like it,” Baysinger said to him. “It was exactly where it needed to be.”
Like many educators, Baysinger’s favorite moments from her career are those when “the light goes on” with a student. Many times, those moments happen during a single day or a single therapy session.
“I had a little guy last year who came into kindergarten and he couldn’t answer any questions by himself,” Baysinger said. “Every answer to every question was ‘Ninja Turtles’ because that’s what he likes.
“By the end of the school year, he was answering simple ‘w-h’ questions (who, what, where, etc.). He was speaking in sentences that made sense. They related to the question or comment we said to him. So, that’s my little victory in my recent history. If you take that sort of thing and you apply it globally to 30 years. …”
You have an award-winning speech pathologist.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.