By MICHELE MILLER
St. Petersburg Times
January 17, 2001
DADE CITY -- Kathi Boyle is a natural-born giver.
Her job as a social worker at Pasco Middle School has her working in her office in the guidance center, but it also takes her out of the school and into the homes of her students and their families.
There, she acts as a liaison. She tries to make sure truants get back into school and connects impoverished families with social service organizations.
Her sensitive demeanor is admired by many, such as Principal Steven Rinck.
"She has a real good blend between head and heart," said Rinck, who also worked with Boyle at Bayonet Point Middle School. "She has this ability to balance her sensitivity to people with professionalism and maintain that status while she opens up her heart as well. She's a super person just about in every way you can think."
So it probably comes as little surprise to Rinck and many of Boyle's cohorts that Boyle was chosen as Florida's School Social Worker of the Year by the Florida Association of School Social Workers.
Still, Boyle was baffled.
"If it wasn't for everybody here, all the people I work with, I'd be nothing," she said.
This past year has been a tough one. Boyle was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which made working difficult. Often, she felt that she wasn't pulling her weight.
That is not the case, said Rinck.
"She has had some personal burdens that she's had to go through, and she's always apologizing right and left to me because she hadn't been feeling up to par," said Rinck. "She's always trying to re-double her efforts. She has gone through suffering herself, and I think she can use that as a way to relate.
"When I send her out on a difficult mission, like seeking a family whose child has been truant, she has this way -- this sensitivity -- so people don't take offense that she's there."
Boyle knows her community well enough to realize that people in need don't always ask. That's why she recently coordinated a holiday giving program for students called "Adopt A Pirate," where faculty members pitched in to buy gifts for various students whose wishes she knew would otherwise go unfulfilled.
There is great joy in that.
"Watching the faces of these kids when you hand them something they never thought they'd get, knowing these kids might just make it through the year because of that, that's the reward," she said.
And when a request comes across her desk that a family needs blankets, she sees to that, too.
Boyle figures she sees about 180 students a year in her office adorned with sports posters and paraphernalia passed on to her by her father, who worked for 39 years broadcasting Little League World Series games.
"I am a sports nut," she said, adding that the autographed posters of Randy White and Isiah Thomas break the ice with students. "It gets the boys talking."
Some students she counsels through typical adolescent angst or poor peer or parent relationships. Others have difficulty controlling their anger. Then come the abuse and suicide calls.
"Some of them are a one-shot deal," she said, but others show up in her office "twice a day, every day."
Boyle also works with parents. She has words of wisdom for those who might feel overwhelmed in an ever-changing world.
"Don't give up on your child no matter what," she said. "We all know that kids don't come with a book. The times are so different then when our parents were raising children. Parents need to be involved with their kids these days. If your child's having a problem in school, parents should go into the classroom and see what's going on in that classroom.
"Just stay beside
them no matter what."
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