June 2003, "Kewpie of the Month" Zay Winscott - Class of 1963
Zay Winscott at Hickman High School in 1962
East Grand Rapids High School's director of guidance retires after 37 years
Retiring guidance counselor puts East Grand Rapids on the map
Presentation by the East Grand Rapids, Class of 2003
Poem from reception & pictures
A tribute from a colleague in Illinois
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director steps down
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
For Zay Reynolds, it was the culmination of a 37-year career of shaping those young lives, as she said goodbye to the final graduating class under her care before retiring as East Grand Rapids High School's director of guidance in June.
"I'm not sure if reality has really hit, but everything I'm feeling so far is good," said Reynolds before commencement. "Graduation will be a very special moment because this senior class was in kindergarten when I came to the district, so I've been there for their entire school career thus far."
High school media center director Peg Howard says she was once one of those teenagers who were impacted by Reynolds. Howard first met Reynolds 20 years ago at a leadership conference in the Lansing area when Howard was just 16 years old.
"I knew even as a kid that Zay was the person to go to if you wanted to know something," said Howard. "Then several years later when I went for an interview for my first teaching job out of college, there was Zay, advocating for me."
A few years later, when Reynolds moved from the rural Ovid-Elsie school district to East Grand Rapids, Howard soon followed, starting as an English teacher and later moving into her current position in the media center.
"She's been an outstanding professional role model for me," Howard said.
Reynolds said her perspective has changed tremendously since she first embarked on her career 37 years ago in Kalamazoo Public Schools, where one of her jobs was crisis counselor during the years of desegregation.
"I started there right out of college, na? as I could be," she said.
After 10 years in Kalamazoo, Reynolds took a position in the Ovid-Elsie district, where just 30 percent of high school graduates were moving on to college.
"At the time, graduates either went to work on family farms or into the automobile factories, but those jobs were disappearing," she said. "By the time I left in 1991, about 80 percent of students were going to college."
Increasing the number of college-bound students wasn't a challenge Reynolds faced when she came to East Grand Rapids High School, where the tradition of post-secondary education was strong.
"I came in thinking I needed to increase the students' opportunities, and then that first summer I was hearing students talk about backpacking through Alaska and traveling to Europe, and I realized that wasn't something I would have to worry about," she said.
Instead Reynolds worked to streamline the way the guidance office functioned in the school. She instituted a rotation that allowed counselors to work with the same class of students through their entire high school career.
"I had just hired Larry Fisher, and I thought, how could you hire a young guy so full of energy and not let him ever work with seniors?" she recalled.
She says one of the biggest changes under her leadership has been the development of a guidance curriculum that extends past her office and into the classrooms.
"Everyone knows what should be happening at each grade level and the teachers buy into it," she said. "My goal was to be able to walk away and not have all this knowledge go with me. It is concrete."
During her tenure at East Grand Rapids High School, Reynolds has also worked to raise the profile of the school on the national college scene. Next year West Michigan will be the venue for a national college fair for the first time ever.
"This will really put West Michigan on the map," she said. "In the past, colleges would come to Michigan and they'd just go to the Detroit area."
Principal Pat Cwayna credits Reynolds with that higher profile. Last week he surprised Reynolds by presenting her with the Principal's Award at the school's honors assembly.
"Zay is known as an expert in college admissions and had gained a tremendous amount of respect throughout the country," he said. "She was always keeping the high academic standards in the forefront of our decisions here and we're going to miss her."
Reynolds said the advent of retirement would be a chance for her to "catch her breath," as well as do some traveling and spend more time with her husband of 34 years, Walt.
Before she hangs up her hat, Reynolds plans to put in one more summer at Harvard, where she has taught other guidance counselors for the past several years. Then, instead of rushing back to East Grand Rapids for the beginning of a new school year, she'll get to do something she's always dreamed of.
"I love New England but I've never been able to see the fall foliage," she said.
Reynolds said she expected to keep the tissues close at hand during commencement.
"I've always loved watching a kid cross the stage and know that I had something to do with where they are going next," she said. "It's a great way to go out."
Retiring guidance counselor
'put EGR on the map'
Zay Reynolds is retiring after
by Juanita Westaby, The Grand
Rapids Press (May 22, 2003)
In 10 years of teaching other high school counselors at Harvard, Zay Reynolds has never gotten to stay long enough to see the New England fall foliage.
She always had to rush back to her job as director of guidance at East Grand Rapids High School.
This summer, she'll get to go to her usual teaching stint, but she won't have to hurry.
After 12 years at East, nearly 15 years at Ovid-Elsie schools in the Lansing area and nearly 11 years at Kalamazoo Public Schools, Reynolds is retiring at the end of this school year.
A reception will be held for her from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the lobby of the Performing Arts Center.
Her gain will be the school's loss, said Principal Patrick Cwayna. "Her high academic standards were something she held onto," he said. "She was always encouraging, promoting and demanding her students stay in a rigorous schedule, when they didn't want to.
"She has a vast knowledge of colleges," Cwayna said.
Reynolds "really plugged kids into the best kind of opportunity for them," said Peg Howard, the high school media specialist who met Reynolds 20 years ago as a high school student herself.
It's all just a bit too much hoopla for Reynolds, who colleagues say tends to be quiet and thoughtful.
"The emotional part hasn't hit me yet," she said, although she expects the goodbye party to get to her. "It's not my comfort zone."
When Cwayna started getting calls from around the state, asking for some kind of formal farewell, he persuaded her to do it.
Reynolds' background at Kalamazoo included crisis counseling for children going through desegregation. At Ovid-Elsie, it included scores of first-generation college students when family farms were sold and factory jobs disappeared. So East Grand Rapids was a completely different sort of job.
"I remember that first summer here," she said. "Because it was a community school, students stopped by. My job had been to open kids' eyes to possibilities and opportunities, and very quickly I began to see I wouldn't have to do that here."
The students told her about trips they were taking to France and backpacking trips out west. "I thought, 'Oh my goodness. This is a completely different clientele,' " she said.
Working with students who have more privilege demanded a different set of tactics, although still focused on the student. Reynolds gained a reputation for helping get children into Ivy League schools.
That's one of the reasons she ended up at Harvard, teaching counselors, mainly at private schools, how to do the same thing.
"What I bring to the (Harvard) Institute is the reality of the job," she said. This will be her last summer there also, because, "I feel l'll bring less credibility to the Institute once I'm no longer in the job."
She also is finishing her three-year term as president of the Michigan Association for College Admissions Counseling.
She always advocated that, as much as teachers knew their students, counselors had to know the students very well, too. At the same time, they had to act as liaisons between colleges and the student.
The real job is "helping colleges understand the framework the student had (in high school)," she said. "The counselor is the wide-angle lens of how this student is in the context of the school."
Reynolds, 58, will have more time for her husband, Walt, in her retirement, but that situation may not last for long. She's been approached about teaching at the college level and working as a consultant for the State Board of Education.
Her name won't fade, Howard said.
The story filtered back to Howard how an Ivy League college president heard the name East Grand Rapids and asked if that wasn't the place where Zay Reynolds worked.
"How many Ivy League schools can remember who your guidance counselor is?" Howard said. "She put East Grand Rapids on the map."
Retiring Faculty: Mrs. Reynolds
At this time I would like to ask Mrs. Reynolds to please join us at the podium.
For twelve years, Mrs. Reynolds has dedicated herself to East Grand Rapids High School. She has worked closely with over 2500 students at East over the years. Her work allows her to personally know each and every student. From college applications she gets to know students on a personal level, witnessing a rare perspective that few other people see. This year alone she worked with a record-number of eight-hundred and eighty-eight applications by the Class of
Mrs. Reynolds’ level of dedication is incredible. During the college application process, she stayed long after the school day ended putting together applications and writing thoughtful and personal recommendations for every single student. Her extreme dedication isn’t only reflected through the numbers. Her incredible work as a guidance counselor is reflected through her noteriety across the nation. Every summer Mrs. Reynolds leads a seminar at Harvard University teaching others about her work. Even when I visited a small college in Maine hundreds of miles away, the admissions counselors knew very well of Mrs. Reynolds for she is well known amongst several admissions circles.
Mrs. Reynold’s dedication and love for her job is remarkable and inspiring. Thank you for all you have done for our Class during our run at East Grand Rapids High School. You are and will always be admired, loved, and honored and we welcome you as an honorary member of the Class of 2003.
M. Zay Reynolds has worked around
But who ever had heard of Ovid-Elsie?
She came to East Grand Rapids
So, off she went that summer
She showed soon after she got
Zay arrived a bit after Evelyn
But she revitalized the counselling
Zay has created a name for herself
But now her transition time has
She is young enough to enjoy
So when Zay walks out this door
in a couple of weeks,
Zay & Walt's son and daughter-in-law with Walt & Zay
with high school principalwith district assistant superintendent
Zay and I met at the College Board Midwest regional meeting in February of 1992. She was replacing the legendary Evelyn Yaegal at East Grand Rapids and I was replacing the legendary Jane Koten at Glenbrook South high school. I knew instantly that Zay and I would be friends, not because we had hard acts to follow, but because we both wanted to work hard and make programs that were good become even better. And that is exactly what Zay has done.
Zay and I have been traveling to conferences and college visits together for the past 11 years. There was never a visit that she didn’t spend time talking with an admission professional, asking more probing questions, making sure she was getting information to bring back to her staff, students and families. She would then give her business card to make sure that people knew who she was and that she was from East Grand Rapids high school - a place she was clearly proud to represent. I was always happy to be with Zay because she commanded respect wherever we went and took copious notes at every session. I used to tease Zay and tell her that she was “the most organized human on the planet” and that was true, but she was also the most professional because of her skills as an educator and as an adniin~strator.
When complimented on a job well done, Zay smiles and says “thank you” but is never looking to be in the limelight. She is the backbone of a job that is not just done well, but is done exceptionally well. Zay would never put a signature on something that wasn’t done without research, care and the best interest of her students at heart.
I know East Grand Rapids high school prides itself on hiring the best — you certainly did that when you hired Zay Reynolds. She took a good guidance department and built it into a great guidance department. I know that I, along with all of you will miss her grace, her wisdom, her dry sense of humor, her demand fo~ expecting the best because that’s what she gives every day and her Irienusilip — which is what I will miss the most.
I wish I could be with you today
Zay, see you at Harvard!
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