Caught in the rapids: My battle with anxiety and depression

Abbey Marshall | Managing Editor


On my most recent trip to the Smoky Mountains, I was enjoying a hot day of leisure splashing around in a refreshingly cold river when I decided it was time for an adventure. Now, I’m not a big thrill-seeker or much of a risk-taker in general, but after watching a group of reckless teenagers repeatedly tumble over a waterfall injury-free, I was ready to do something a little crazy. I wasn’t by any means prepared to topple over a drop off like that, but I was planning to take a ride through the rapids at the bottom of the waterfall. Cautiously sliding off a mossy rock, I was whisked away by the churning water. I swam back to my starting point, laughing as my brother followed my lead. My confidence and sense of bravery soared as I decided to take the plunge again.1085

The second time was torturous. I got swept away, unprepared and afraid as my head was thrashing around the depths of the river. I opened my eyes in a panic, attempting to find my way to the surface, but instead I only saw a terrifying kaleidoscope of blue hues and bubbles. The rapids consumed me as I lost control of my body and had an overwhelming sense that this would never end.

“This is how I’m going to die,” I thought.

My head popped back up after what felt like ages only to be greeted by my concerned looking brother and my sister with her hand clamped over her mouth. Relief flooded over me as I hurriedly swam back to the big rock where my siblings were standing as they repeatedly asked me if I was okay. Their words became a hodgepodge of “I couldn’t see your head for a long time” and “I was so afraid” and “Don’t do that again”. My parents, seated from afar called out to me with looks of terror plastered on their faces, unable to comprehend what had just happened. Trying to fight back tears of shock and utter dread, I assured them that I was fine, though my entire body was shaking and I felt completely out of control.

That’s what anxiety feels like.

I was diagnosed last summer with obsessive compulsive disorder, severe anxiety, and depression. The words sound foreign on my tongue, so fresh and so terrifying as I rarely speak them aloud, but make perfect sense, like a discovery of myself that I have struggled so long to try to comprehend. The past two years of my life has been riddled with unexplained and volatile panic attacks and a generalized feeling of anxiety at all times, no matter what I’m doing. I knew that something wasn’t right when I would sit in my bedroom late at night shaking and crying uncontrollably over things that I shouldn’t be so worried about. I knew that there was something extremely wrong when I couldn’t drag myself out of bed, feeling so hopeless and empty on the inside. I knew I had problems when I’d restlessly lie beneath the sheets at night for hours on end, anxious thoughts provoking me with every attempt I made to get some rest.

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My therapist believes this began when my mother passed away; I suffered from post traumatic stress as a three-year-old. That extreme event carried over into habitual anxious behaviors that strengthened over time, which ultimately lead to my lifelong OCD and issues sleeping. I fixate on perfection with my every action, no matter how small. This past year brought all sorts of social and academic pressure to me and for the first time in my life, I couldn’t handle it. I cracked. My chemical balance changed; I was in a constant state of heightened nerves and mental stress, sporadically spurring on panic attacks, and I felt a sort of sadness, emptiness, and loneliness I’d never experienced before.

Most people would be surprised to hear that I am depressed. Oftentimes, I am complimented on my cheery personality and optimistic view on life. This is why I’m writing this article: to change the stigmas associated with mental disorders.

It took me a long time to write this. Shaky fingers drafted this over and over, unsure of what to say or how to say it. What will people think? Will they think I’m weird or unstable? What am I even trying to accomplish? It wasn’t until I stumbled upon the series Going Off by New York Times writer Diana Spechler that I realized that this was bigger than me. I can use my writing to not only release myself, but bring forth an important, yet touchy subject that is slowly coming to the forefront of current social issues.

The problem becomes that when you hide it, the situation worsens. I know this all too well. When I began to have panic attacks early last year, I kept them hidden from my parents for quite some time. Of course, having the burden of a secret that large only increased my anxious feelings and ultimately ostracized me even further, creating the illusion that I truly was on my own.

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I’m here to address those so crippled by what society thinks that they’re too afraid to get the release and closure they need. You are not alone. I am still fooled by those notion every now and then, but I promise it’s not true. If just my saying it isn’t enough to sell you, look at simple statistics. 40 million adults in the United States are affected by an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Also, according to ADAA, “Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder”.

My mind is flustered by the idea that 18 percent of the U.S. population is suffering from such a severe disorder, yet it’s still such an ill-addressed topic. The solution seems simple: get people talking. It’s such a taboo; we know it’s there and we know it’s getting worse but we don’t want to feel uncomfortable so we just won’t talk about it.

One of the inaccurate stigmas behind mental disorders is that if you simply try hard enough, you can make yourself happy. Let me be the first to inform these confused individuals: it doesn’t work that way. I can’t even keep track of how many nights I’ve tried to force a smile upon my face and think about how grand life is. The reality is, the brain is very complex and delicate, leaving plenty of room for the errors of chemical and hormonal imbalances. Serotonin re-uptake can occur too much and too often at an unhealthy level, depleting people with depression of their happiness. The New York Times reported in 2013 that one in 10 Americans are currently taking anti-depressant medication.

As someone who takes anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication in an attempt to calm my nerves and balance my hormones, as someone who attends doctors appointments routinely, as someone who sits on an over-sized leather couch as a psychologist analyzes me regularly, let me tell you that despite my lengthy analysis of mental illness, it can be summed up in two harsh, blatantly honest words: it sucks.

I wish I could say that in the end, everything will be perfect and this is just a bump in the road, but I know firsthand that it feels like more than a bump. It feels like a roadblock. Having anxiety and depression is like standing on the edge of a jagged crevasse, gazing over at what life could be like, but instead you’re trapped for what seems like forever. I’m not going to be one of the people who will tell you to just “get over it and move on”.

My personal account isn’t about the triumph or the resilience of the human spirit. Actually, it’s quite the contrary. I’m trying to say that it’s okay not be perfect. It’s okay to be human. It’s okay to be broken. It’s okay to feel emotions and cry and not smile every second of your life. I want to start a conversation about how people battling a mental disorder are not damaged goods and we shouldn’t have to be ashamed of who we are.

I am exposing my deepest, darkest secret, describing the inner-workings of my brain, and sharing this to spark conversations about the taboos of mental illnesses in today’s society. We need to start changing the way people view psychological disorders in order to move forward and help those suffering.

If you’re feeling caught in the rapids the way I do, remember that you’re not alone. Everyone is battling something. No matter who you are, there is someone that cares about you beyond belief. See 1 Peter 5:7 for details.

This is a snapshot of the location where I fell victim to the raging rapids. I like this picture because it shows just how small the scariness and anxiety of this world is in comparison to God’s great beauty.

“The pain that you’ve been feeling, can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.” ~Romans 8:18

Originally published in The Chronicle on May 13, 2016.


Historic Mason building played key role in World War II

Abbey Marshall | Managing Editor

‘A Voice from America’


The Bethany Relay Station was commissioned in 1944 to combat Nazi propaganda. Photo by Abbey Marshall.

“Here speaks a voice from America…We shall speak to you about America and the war. The news may be good, the news may be bad, but we will tell you the truth.”

These words were among the first broadcast to hit the radio waves from the Bethany Relay Station in West Chester to Europe in 1944.

Contrary to popular belief, Voice of America is more than a shopping center and scenic park; it is a historical landmark. Just off Tylersville Road is one of the three original radio stations in the country that legally utilized the most powerful short wave transmitters in the world to broadcast to Europe to combat Adolf Hitler’s propaganda, said former Voice of America employee David Snyder.

“The Nazis distorted everything on the radio,” Snyder said. “Everything had an anti-semitic message: ‘Jews are terrible. Jews are bad. Get rid of Jews.’ That was in everything they said.”

Although Americans paid little attention to the messages at the time, Snyder said, involvement in the war was sparked by the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“At the start of World War II, Germany had 68 radio transmitters and Japan had 42 radio transmitters and they were using high power and short wave communication,” Snyder said. “This country–they were regulated by law–wasn’t allowed to use any of the short wave broadcasters. This all came about pretty much at Pearl Harbor day. We knew we had to do something and we had to do something big.”

In response to the attack, President Theodore Roosevelt and newly appointed Coordinator of Information Nelson Rockefeller discovered a roundabout method to broadcast overseas. They conducted a secret meeting in Washington D.C. to discuss what the next steps would be. Out of that meeting, three contracts were constructed to build three short wave transmitting plant. Two of those plants were in California, one by NBC and one by CBS, and the third was by Crosley Broadcasting in Cincinnati.

“Crosley Manufacturing owned a big radio station,” Snyder said. “From 1922, they owed a little radio station, WLW, which grew and grew and grew and finally wound up out here in Mason. They wanted a place that was close to Mason. They were able to buy five farms here and build the short wave station here.”

The Bethany Relay Station’s purpose was to inform the general public in Germany. Hitler’s second hand man, Joseph Goebbels, made the statement that radio would be to the twentieth century what the printing press was to the nineteenth. He developed the idea for a subsidized radio receiver. The Third Reich would pay three quarters of the cost to make the equipment more affordable for the common people in order to relay propaganda messages. By 1938, every other household in Germany had a Volksempfänger, or people’s radio.

“It was built for one purpose: to listen to the local stations,” Snyder said. “It was not built to listen to stations outside the country…If you attached a long wire, you could hear London or Moscow, but you were careful to conceal that wire under the woodwork and up through the attic because you didn’t want that discovered. If the word got out that you knew something, the Gestapo would come knocking on your door.”

At the time, the WLW tower standing erect in Mason emitted a whopping 500,000 watts in order to reach Europe. As a result, Hitler was able to pinpoint the origin of the American broadcasts.

“In 1944, Hitler knew where those strong radio signals were coming from, so he called us ‘those Cincinnati liars’,” Snyder said.

As a result of changing technology, the station was decommissioned and closed in November 1994. After the towers were brought down in the following years, West Chester received nearly 500 acres and the history building. The building is currently a museum under renovations to become more developed, Snyder said.

Visitors can attend the museum once a month. They are able to take a walk through the timeline of radio, analyze the nuts and bolts behind the transmitters, stroll through the wall of fame of the movie and television stars who got their start in Cincinnati radio, and watch a 17 minute film created by George Clooney’s father, Nick Clooney. Snyder said, however, the project is far from finished. The next fundraiser will be a musical program by Middletown Symphony and Cincinnati Ballet Orchestra director Carmon Deleon on June 4 in order to fund handicapped accessible restrooms and a new entrance.

Snyder said he believes people not only in Mason, but all over the world should be informed about the importance radio stations played in World War II.

“We don’t want Hitler ever again,” Snyder said. “We don’t want that kind of thing to happen in our world. That’s why we study history. This was so important during World War II…This was before television; this was before the Internet. This was how people got their information. People listened to the radio. This was such an important part of history because for once, the government could really combat Hitler’s propaganda.”


The control room of Bethany Relay Station was referred to as “The Temple of Radio”. Photo by Abbey Marshall.

Originally published in The Chronicle on May 13, 2016.

Teachers will get pay raise, more time for professional development in new contract

Abbey Marshall | Managing Editor

There appears to be harmony between the Mason Education Association and the Mason City School board as the two recently came to an agreement that was overwhelmingly ratified by  teachers.

As the previous teacher contract crept towards its expiration date in June, the MEA and School Board initiated negotiations and collective bargaining agreements. The contract was officially approved by the Board on April 26.

Ninety-two percent of the staff voted to approve the contract on April 19, which results in a raise each of the next three years, alterations to health care, and changes to the calendar.

The most visible differences between this year and next is the insertion of more professional development for a total of six teacher work days, according to MEA President Maria Mueller.

“Students will notice some changes in the school calendar,” Mueller said. “There has been some additional professional work days woven into the year. The intention is to allow teachers to be able to pause and hone their craft and to pause and reflect. The year will be broken up more.”

In addition to more days off to rest for students, two of the days will be used to create learning opportunities outside the classroom. The MEA and Board titled these “Personal Learning Days”, which are scheduled for November 21, 2016 and February 17, 2017.

“Two of those days–which is something that will be new–are going to be called Personal Learning Days for students,” Mueller said. “They will be days when students will be assigned to be working on things outside of class. Personal Learning Days are intended to, as the name suggests, make learning personal but also bigger than the classroom.”

Because of the insertion of these days, the 2016-2017 school year will begin on Monday rather than Tuesday, as it was previously scheduled.

In addition to more time for professional development, teachers will receive a 2.5 percent raise.

“We appreciate what that says to us: the Board and the administration value our work,” Mueller said. “The contract shapes (the teachers’) work and their lives because whatever ultimately gets approved has such a personal impact on each member of our association.”

Ultimately, however, the agreement does not just affect staff and students, Mueller said.

“The conversations that occur in a negotiation is ultimately reflective of our democracy,” Mueller said. “This is the ultimate in people working together to shape a community. The negotiated contract doesn’t just impact the teachers and the Board and the dollars, it impacts everyone in the community.”

Originally published in The Chronicle on May 13, 2016.

Dinan gets ‘caught up’ with release of new novel

Abbey Marshall | Managing Editor


Kurt Dinan held a book signing at Joseph-Beth Booksellers on Wednesday, April 6. Photo by Abbey Marshall.

Lots of students are going to “get caught” reading English teacher Kurt Dinan’s debut novel.

Dinan’s Young Adult book Don’t Get Caught hit bookstores on April 1. It is is a comedic tale of Max Cobb and his friends, who begin an elaborate prank war at their high school.

“Don’t Get Caught is a YA heist novel, but instead of them stealing things, they’re pulling really elaborate pranks within their building,” Dinan said. “Hilarity ensues. Lots of really over the top pranks. A lot of humor. Really fast-paced.”

Dinan said his inspiration came from a place of failure. After writing a book he couldn’t publish, he began listing out elements that would make a good story.

“I wrote a novel I couldn’t sell and when I was reevaluating, I decided to make a list of what I like in books because they tell you to like what you would read,” Dinan said. “So I made a list and on that list was what I like: heist films, ensemble casts, juvenile humor, short chapters, not much description, plot twists and I made that list and ultimately that’s what I ended up with.”

After 18 months and eight drafts, Dinan’s work was complete. Following that, the real work began.

“I sent out 125 query letters (for an agent),” Dinan said. “Query letters have very specific specifications…You have to sell the novel within about 250 words…I bet it was a year and a half before an agent agreed to represent it…I had bites from certain agents and they read the book. My agent, Carrie Sparks, loved the book and offered to represent it. She had revision notes and I revised the book again for what she said we needed to do. Then she sends and meets with all the book editors she knows. She specializes in Young Adult novels. So she goes to all the Young Adult editors and publishers she knows and gives them this book…From those, Source Books, out of Chicago, loved the book and wanted to publish it and here we are.”

As the April 1 release date approached, Dinan said he began relentless promotion across the country and internet, including a book signing April 6 at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Norwood.

“It’s been a lot of busywork: writing blog entries for people’s books, doing interviews, but I’m trying to enjoy it all because as far as I know I will never publish another book,” Dinan said. “Once this one’s done, it doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean that I get to publish another book. I went to visit the publisher in Chicago last year and I loved that. I wanted to see the people who were working on my book. I was sent to Denver to meet with booksellers and that was thrilling. I was with other authors whose books were coming out and some were Pulitzer Prize winners. I felt like a fraud at times, but at the same time, I felt really appreciated and that was fun.”

Dinan said his experience will not only help further his career as a writer, but assist in his job as an English teacher.

“I try not to oversell the book,” Dinan said. “That’s not my job. I’m here to teach, but the book comes up. It has to. I reference it when we talk about the writing process. It does give me a sort of verisimilitude. I have a certain amount of authority, especially in creative writing, because I do this. This is what I do. I know what works and what doesn’t. I know how to approach certain problems.”

Junior Holly Martin, a mentee of Dinan, benefited from his real-world experience.

“Since he has that real-world experience, he can give us real advice,” Martin said. “Instead of a teacher saying, ‘Write what you feel’, he can actually give us feedback on what he has gone through and what he’s experienced…I’m looking forward to seeing his writing style because he taught Creative Writing and I want to see how he writes.”

Dinan said he is excited about having students approach him about his novel.

“I do have kids who walk by me in the hall who come up and ask me when the book is coming out,” Dinan said. “They want to read the book. I know when the book comes out, kids are going to be coming and asking me to sign it. I’m going to see a kid I don’t know walking down the hall with my book and that’s really exciting and fun.”

Freshman Andy Carter picked up a copy of Don’t Get Caught on the release date and finished it within a day.

“I started reading it Friday morning and finished reading it Friday afternoon,” Carter said. “It reads pretty quick and it keeps you turning the pages so I thought it was pretty fun to read. It’s a good book.”

Dinan said he is proud of his accomplishment of becoming a published author.

“I’m thrilled it’s coming out,” Dinan said. “A friend of mine said the other day, ‘You’ve achieved something some authors will never achieve. A publisher is putting your book out.’ I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on the book. A lot of people seem to love the book.”

Originally published in The Chronicle on April 15, 2016.

OPINION: ‘Spotlight’ win is a victory for all journalists

Abbey Marshall | Managing Editor

Abbey columnist pic (1)

Last year, CareerCast named “newspaper reporter” as the “worst job in America”. Going to college with the goal of becoming a journalist is becoming less and less common; the future for journalism oftentimes seems bleak.

As a student with the eager intent to major in journalism, this bothers me. I am told by skeptical relatives that I won’t get a job or make a decent living. I am told by die-hard conservatives that all media is slanted and is just a way to promote the liberal agenda. I am told by college grads that they once-upon-a-time began freshman year majoring in journalism but discovered there was no future in it. I always wanted to beat the odds, and planned on it, but that’s a tough thing to do when nearly everyone is telling me “no”.

In comes “Spotlight”. Directed by Tom McCarthy, this movie followed a 2001 team of investigative journalists in Boston responsible for uncovering the scandal of priests sexually abusing children. The movie was real; it didn’t glamorize the newsroom or make it anything more than what it is: hard, frustrating work. They were rejected by sources, denied permission to view legal documents, and had to overcome plenty of obstacles to print the story and expose the truth. This movie rejuvenated and affirmed my passion for journalism. I knew I wanted to do that important work, no matter how much money was in it for me.

I, among the rest of the journalistic world, rejoiced when “Spotlight” won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It was a nod of gratitude to those who grind away at the difficult task of daily journalism. We aren’t in it for the fame or the money or the acknowledgement, but this film brought up the importance of what we do. I know one movie will hardly change the entire national view of journalists, but perhaps it will alter the perception of the necessity of investigative reporting.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted, “Hoping Spotlight’s Best Picture win will result in not just applause for investigative reporting, but also in more resources invested in it.” Journalism is important. It holds people accountable. Unless more money and faith is put into the work we do, it will become more and more difficult to expose the wrongs in the world. Being a journalist is one of the most selfless jobs; it is about telling the truth and asking nothing in return.

I commend the real-life journalists who inspired the story of “Spotlight” and all those still fighting for the field of investigative reporting.


Originally published in The Chronicle on March 11, 2016.

Teens take extreme measures to combat acne

Abbey Marshall | Managing Editor

Acne is a teenage nightmare: an undesirable side effect of puberty. Students attempt to combat their oily skin in a variety of ways, but when all else fails, some are turning to cure it at its source.

Accutane was an oral drug approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 1982, originally marketed as a chemotherapy. The intended use shifted once it was discovered to clear the skin of severe nodular cystic acne, however, severe side effects came alongside the drug. In 1984, the FDA required a “black box” warning for Accutane, citing the risk for fetal deformation. After decades of medical reports and studies analyzing the links between Accutane and severe side effects, as well as lawsuits, Accutane was discontinued in 2009. Generic brands of the medication, such as Isotretinoin, are still available.

Common side effects of Isotretinoin include dry skin, itching, rash, nosebleeds, dry mouth, peeling skin, inflammation, dry eyes, joint pain, dizziness, nervousness, and many more. In addition to these more common, primarily topical side effects, more severe conditions include depression, irritability, changes in weight, loss of interest in activities, and fetal deformities for females who become pregnant.

Despite all the risks, senior Carly Schmidt decided it was worth it. Schmidt said her acne affected her self-confidence and sheScreen Shot 2016-03-07 at 11.41.14 AM was ready to make a change.

“I had really bad acne on my chest and back,” Schmidt said. “I wouldn’t wear swimsuits. I would always wear shirts all the way up to my neck. I wouldn’t want to show it.”

Low self-esteem of patients with nodular cystic acne is a common driving force for seeking out Isotretinoin, said  Dr. Elizabeth Muennich of Dermatology and Skin Care.

“Severe nodular cystic acne can be very disabling,” Muennich said. “It is an independent risk factor for suicide. People have killed themselves over their skin. You can see that patients who are oftentimes broken out, they’re clinically depressed. It’s a very affecting disease. They don’t want to go to school, they don’t want to go out with their friends.”

Muennich said the process of getting on Isotretinoin is grueling and only a select few are eligible for the drug.

“First, you have to fail all other conventional topical therapies,” Muennich said. “You also have to fail oral tetracycline or the oral antibiotics. Sometimes it’s a couple year process before we say, ‘Okay, there’s nothing else we can do for you. You need Accutane or Isotretinoin.’”

In addition to the extensive process, the drug comes at a steep cost, Muennich said.

“It’s not cheap,” Muennich said. “You have to come to the dermatologist every month, you have to pay for bloodwork every month. The pills themselves are expensive. They can be around $500 a month…You can see the bills just add up.”

Severe side effects are an ominous danger for those considering Isotretinoin. Schmidt said the fear of these is what scares people off, however, she only experienced minor effects.

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“There’s a lot of side effects with Accutane, so normally people don’t want to be on it because you could get depression,” Schmidt said. “The only symptoms I had was I had really dry lips, my skin was really dry, and I had a lot of nosebleeds.”

This common dryness of the skin, nose, etcetera is due to the drug turning off the oil gland at the site. As a result, the acne is not just treated, it’s cured.

“This is something I can cure,” Muennich said. “In medicine, when we treat things, we tend to be palliative. There aren’t very many cures in medicines, but Accutane is considered a cure.”

Depleting the body of vitamin A, however, poses a risk to those who are sexually active.

“You can’t have a baby grow without vitamin A,” Muennich said. “Vitamin A is a core vitamin…There’s a fundamental risk, so we just avoid it.”

To combat the potential risk of birth defects, the FDA requires women taking Isotretinoin to take part in the iPledge program in which they pledge to not become pregnant. In addition, females must be on two forms of birth control and take monthly pregnancy and blood tests.

Mental health is also a concern of those starting the drug. Since the development of Accutane in the ‘80s, medical analysts have drawn links between Accutane and depression. Muennich said, however, there might be more to the story than that.

“There’s a history of the whole suicide and Accutane risk, but now that they’ve fared it out that acne itself has an independent risk factor for suicide, they’re realizing this is more than just the Accutane,” Muennich said.

Many patients with depression are already seeing psychiatrists prior to going on Isotretinoin. Muennich said she works closely with their psychiatrists to make sure the patient is as happy and healthy as they can be.

“In terms of the mental health side effects, I do have some patients who are seeing psychiatrists for depression,” Muennich said. “I get a letter from their psychiatrists saying it’s okay to treat, and 100 percent of the time, they say, ‘Go ahead and treat’, because if I clear up their skin and make them a happier person on the exterior, they’re going to feel better on the interior…Our skin is what we project. If we have beautiful skin, we’re more confident and sometimes we’re happier.”

After the six month course is completed, the results are well worth it, said Schmidt.

“It was very worth it,” Schmidt said. “It’s a confidence thing. When you don’t have acne, you feel more confident about yourself. It really does help with your self esteem. Once it got all cleared up, I felt more confident about myself.”

Originally published in The Chronicle on March 11, 2016.

Hyatt named new Mason High School principal

Abbey Marshall | Managing Editor


Photo by Blake Nissen

After an extensive outside search across southwest Ohio, information collection on candidates, paper screenings, phone interviews, in-person interviews, and a final performance task, it turned out the best person for the job was just down the hall.

On February 23, the Mason City School Board approved the motion to appoint Interim Principal Dave Hyatt as Mason High School Building Principal. Hyatt, a staff member since 1997, has seen it all: he’d been there for the transformation from farm town to tech-hub. He understands the community and school district and how it functions, forging important relationships with staff and students, making him the perfect man for the job, according to superintendent Gail Kist-Kline.

“Mr. Hyatt has developed good relationships with staff, students, families and the community,” Kist-Kline said. “I am confident he will maintain those relationships…He is able to bring people together and I know he plans to enhance the instructional leadership capacity of those around him.”

After the sudden departure of Mindy McCarty-Stewart in August prior to the beginning of the school year, Hyatt was quick to step up and take on new responsibilities as interim principal and explore his professional interests.

“For me personally, it was a professional journey as far as what it’s like to be a building principal here at Mason High School,” Hyatt said. “That journey for me was a good thing. I was able to just step back and get to know what our teachers do more, what our kids are about and work with some community members; I really enjoyed it. That offered me an opportunity to get to know what I wanted to do and professionally where I wanted to go and I ended up being able to apply for the position of building principal.”

Hyatt’s professional journey was backed by the support of many staff members, including English teacher Patricia George, who circulated a petition for Hyatt to fill the role of principal.

“I knew the district was doing a nationwide search,” George said. “I just thought because Mr. Hyatt has been here in Mason since 1997, he has a better handle on what this community is and how it got this way. He’s seen it, he’s been an administrator…For the kind of community we have, I think somebody who knows it inside and out was going to be the best person for the job.”

Hyatt has done it all: he’s been a teacher, an athletic director, a coach, an administrator, and an assistant principal. He can now add “building principal” to his impressive resume. Though Hyatt has extensive experience with Mason City Schools, he still had to go through the same process as would any other applicant for the position.

“The process is about finding the best person that leads this building and while it’s great to be liked and supported by colleagues, whether I was the best person needed to be decided by a process,” Hyatt said. “There are great principals outside this district that could come in and do great things. It’s about fit and it’s about timing.”

Those relationships formed throughout the years has made an impression on staff and students alike; George said Hyatt is personable has been working hard to bring together the vast population of MHS.

“He relates to the staff on a very personal level,” George said. “He’s visible. He’s approachable. He has made it his goal from August to rebuild a sense of community in this very large building of nearly 4,000 students.”

Hyatt said he values the time spent with individuals and helping others, which he attributes to his “servant” leadership style.

“I’m willing to listen,” Hyatt said. “Each of us have our own stories and our own challenges and our own strengths…Being able to sit and listen and talk through that and work together to overcome some of the things that each of us face is important to me.”

Science teacher Randy Hubbard said Hyatt’s main focus is on the students and that’s what it’s all about.

“He’s student-oriented,” Hubbard said. “He’s a guy who was in the classroom for a long time so he loves to help kids develop into good citizens and he’s a good role model.”

Originally published in The Chronicle on March 11, 2016.