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District’s Digital Academy Creates Life-long Bond Between Student and Teacher

Zoe Robinson and Kristen Delay

May 6, 2021 -- Kristen Delay, a twelfth-grade English teacher in the District’s Digital Academy, wants students to know two things about her; she’s a night owl, and she doesn’t give up easily. Just ask Zoe Robinson, a senior at Marion-Franklin High School. 

“Ms. Delay definitely hounded me, but in a good way,” said Robinson. “If I didn't log in to my Digital Academy classes for a day, she would call to check up on me.”

The COVID-19 pandemic hit this Columbus City Schools senior hard. Before the pandemic, Zoe Robinson attended school full-time and worked two part-time jobs to help her family financially. Zoe was a good student, getting mostly A’s and B’s. 

“When we were sent home in the Spring of 2020, I just stopped doing my school work,” said Robinson. “I lost one job but found a full-time job that had me working 60 hours a week and traveling all over the state. I had to work to help my family.” 

By December, Zoe Robinson had failed all of her classes. The Chromebook the District provided her at the beginning of the school year was still in the box. That’s when Marion-Franklin counselor Tanita Fleming stepped in.

“Ms. Fleming said I should consider the District’s Digital Academy because it was all online, and I could do my school work so that it didn’t conflict with my work schedule.”

Zoe Robinson was still feeling overwhelmed, so she emailed Ms. Delay, her Digital Academy English 12 teacher. 

“I told Ms. Delay, I just couldn’t do it, and I would come back and get my GED,” said Robinson. “The email back from Ms. Delay said call me. Here’s my cell number.”

“Zoe just needed some motivation,” said Kristen Delay. “For starters, I told Zoe to get the Chromebook out of the box and charge it. Then we agreed to communicate every day, call, text or email. I didn’t care.” 

That was in February. 

“Sometimes I would get a text at 11:30 at night from Zoe,” said Delay. “She would ask if I was up and could I unlock the test for her? Or if I could help her with a school assignment? I always responded. I wanted Zoe to know I was always there. I seriously am a night owl.” 

Ms. Delay literally made herself available anytime, day or night. Sometimes she would hear from Zoe on a Saturday while she was driving around doing her errands. 

“I would find a safe spot to pull over alongside the highway or a quiet corner in the store to unlock the test from my cell phone or using my school laptop,” said Delay.

That critical support has changed this high school senior’s life. 

“Ms. Delay was so kind,” said Robinson. “She gave me the push I needed to believe in myself again. Having her in my corner is what I needed. She refused to let me give up.” 

Last month, the pair met for breakfast at Bob Evans to finalize Zoe’s coursework. This Marion-Franklin senior has passed all her courses and met all the requirements to graduate. Zoe’s long-term plans are to join the Navy, but she’s staying close to home right now to take care of her grandmother. When it’s safe to be away, Zoe Robinson will enlist. 

“When we met for breakfast, Zoe brought me flowers and snuck away to pay the tab,” said Delay. “She really is special.”

“I am so thankful that Columbus City Schools provided an opportunity like the Digital Academy,” said Robinson. “It allowed me the flexibility to work and still graduate. It also put Ms. Delay in my life.” 

Zoe encourages other students to find that person at school that will have their back. 

“Maybe it’s a school counselor, school nurse, or teacher,” said Robison. “Every kid needs someone like Ms. Delay in their corner.”