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Educator honored for changing lives of children

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One professor’s life and career was honored April 29 by Communities in Schools (CIS), an organization aiming to connect schools with the resources to motivate students.

Kathleen Fite, Department of Curriculum and Instruction and College of Education professor, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for South-Central Texas.  Fite was recognized for creating the Bobcat Buddy Partnership, a program designed to provide learning assistance to elementary students in the area.

Fite said she started the program 25 years ago after a principal in New Braunfels asked for volunteers to help certain students fine-tune their ability to read.

“They really needed some help for the children in the schools because they were having difficulty reading,” Fite said. “(The children) needed some one-on-one attention.”

Fite said she offers extra credit to her students to encourage them to become a pal for children in the program.

“My students are juniors and they are preparing to become teachers,” Fite said. “They were so eager to work with children that like 90 percent of them would volunteer.”

Emily Woods, interdisciplinary studies senior, said she traveled to New Braunfels once a week to meet up with kids she was assigned to at Goodwin Fraizer Elementary School.

Woods said she worked hard to make sure the students were getting the attention they needed by helping with homework and by playing games.

“In the beginning (my Bobcat Buddy) was shy towards me, but by the end she got more comfortable talking,” Woods said. “I learned how important that connection is with your students.”

Fite said many of her students make multiple trips to the schools, with some even helping the same student for several school years. She said the children love having the special attention, and teachers appreciate the personalized learning because it helps students grow.

Kaitlyn Dennis, interdisciplinary studies senior, said she worked with a fifth-grader at Morningside Elementary School in New Braunfels.

Dennis said nothing was more rewarding than getting the children to become more comfortable around her.

“You’re basically there for extra support and guidance,” Dennis said. “Opening up to them makes them feel like they can open up back to you.”

Fite said 50 children from the schools where her program is visited Texas State to help present a bouquet of flowers and a plaque commemorating her achievement.

“The thing most touching to me was on the plaque it said, ‘Lifetime achievement for changing the lives of countless children,’” Fite said. “To me it is all about making a better tomorrow and a better world for our children.”

Woods said Fite taught her students to understand the significant hands-on experience can have on young children, and gave them the skills to be confident as teachers.

“I really like how she gives us hands-on experience,” Woods said. “She helps us to know that as a teacher we need to get to know our students and build a connection.”

Fite said many of the students who worked as Bobcat Buddies during their time at Texas State are now teachers in the same schools they assisted.

Dennis said Fite is an inspiration to anyone hoping to teach and has opened many people’s eyes through her efforts to bring children a more tailored learning environment.

“She really works with her students and is very approachable,” Dennis said. “In my eyes she is a really good teacher.”

Fite said she currently has no plans of retiring and hopes to continue Bobcat Buddies for the next five to 10 years.

“When you have the chance to work with a child, it’s just an incredible experience to be there when that moment of learning manifests itself,” Fite said.  “You never know who’s going to connect with a child and be the person that’ll make a difference in that child’s life.”