School: Fullerton Union High School
School District:Fullerton Joint Union High School District
City, State: Fullerton, California
About the Nominee: Erin DeFries was nominated by her principal, Rani Goyal.
Ms. DeFries is one of those rare individuals who makes a differences in the lives of everyone around her each and every single day through her compassion, enthusiasm, positivity and ability to listen and problem solve. As a counselor, Ms. DeFries meets with students constantly. These are not your average meetings, where a counselor schedules students and checks in when something is amiss. She meets with every one of her students and their families and takes her time to really get to know them. She also meets with students whenever they need someone to talk to. Because of her open door policy, Mrs. DeFries ends up meeting with many students that are not "assigned" to her. Everyone wants to see her because they know she will be straight with them, but love them like they are her own children at the same time. Because she knows students so well, she can tell when something isn't right just by looking at a student's grades or attendance. She is constantly monitoring students and talks to them as soon as she senses something is not right. Students also come to her on their own when they need help.
Mrs. DeFries has probably made the biggest difference with students by giving them the ability to treat everyone with kindness and respect, no matter their background. Fullerton Union High School won an award for having the most safe zones on campus due to her leadership of a student club and providing guidance to staff. Because of her, students are incredibly tolerant. Because of her, a family who was being torn apart due to a student's identity was able to come together, accept the student and support them through a name change. There are many more families she has helped just by listening, being proactive and helping them navigate the school and, at times, each other. Mrs. DeFries is also a tremendous asset to colleagues and other staff members. You can often find a teacher in her office talking through their own personal struggles or their struggles in the classroom. She finds ways to support teachers and gives suggestions on how to support students. No matter what, Mrs. DeFries makes time for everyone.
If her open door policy wasn't enough, Mrs. DeFries is the biggest spirit builder on campus. She heads the staff club and is their party planner. She plans out the theme for the school year and plans events to bring staff together. Mrs. DeFries' school is going through challenges, so she is providing leadership to help staff stay positive. She is constantly seeking professional development and attends anything her school asks her to attend so she can share what she's learned with her colleagues. For example, she learned how to use a program called Naviance to support students' college and career planning. She became so strong at using Naviance that she is now a trainer for the district. Mrs. DeFries is the best master schedule builder and finds a way to meet all student and teacher needs. On top of all she does at school, she also runs a nonprofit organization called Kids Konnected that provides services for children whose parents have been impacted by cancer.
Principal Goyal says that they have no idea how Mrs. DeFries does it all. She has somehow found hours to extend her day. While they may not know how she does it all, they do know this: Mrs. DeFries' students and colleagues feel incredibly fortunate that she is on campus doing great things, each and every day.