The health education director for the Auglaize County Health Department recently received recognition as a “Distinguished Toastmaster.”
Janet Bassitt, 58, of Wapakoneta, was presented with the award, including a plaque and medallion, during a recent district conference.
Having joined the local Toastmasters Group, Grand Lake Toastmasters, of St. Marys, to improve her communication skills, Bassitt said she never anticipated achieving the highest level of recognition members of the international organization can earn.
“It just kind of happened along the way,” Bassitt said. “I wasn’t really thinking about it when I joined the club.”
The Distinguished Toastmaster award is given only to those who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and communication skills and who have used these skills to help others in their self-development efforts. To achieve the award takes years of dedicated service and leadership at the local club, area and division levels, along with the delivery of approximately 50 evaluated speeches.
More than 4 million people have joined Toastmasters International since it was established in 1924. Less than 12,000 have achieve the top honor.
“I wanted to improve my communication skills because of my job at the Health Department,” Bassitt said. “I was giving a lot of presentations and teaching courses for the elderly at the time. I read some about Toastmasters and joined on my first visit.”
Once she learned that Toastmasters also had a leadership track, she decided to go through that training as well.
In total, the work took her nine years to complete and she now belongs to two area Toastmaster groups — the one in St. Marys, as well as Hogge Creek Toastmasters Club, which she served as a mentor to help start out of Lima.
Bassitt has served in several club, district and area leadership positions and organized and conducted a Speechcraft Seminar.
Before earning her Distinguished Toastmaster award, she was named club “Toastmaster of the Year,” and achieved bronze, silver and gold status in both the communications and leadership tracks of the program.
Her speeches have focused on a variety of topics with evaluators judging them on a list of criteria. In addition to the speeches required for the communications portion, Bassitt also had to complete many different activities and a large project to complete the leadership portion of study.
“I tried to gear what I could toward my job, to choose areas related to it and what I do there,” Bassitt said.
Bassitt said the communication and leadership skills she has developed through Toastmasters has helped her every day in her profession at the Auglaize County Health Department.
She said it has assisted her as she has taken on even more leadership roles, including her service as coordinator of an eight-county zone for the Ohio Action for Healthy Kids Coalition, a master trainer for A Matter of Balance program, a teacher for Healthy You, and other programming involvement that takes her to counties throughout the area to present. She also serves on several boards.
The member of St. Joseph Catholic Church said the skills she has learned have even made it easier to enjoy being active there as a cantor and member of the choir.
“At first I was not seeing how I was changing,” Bassitt said. “I’ve seen the changes in my confidence and other skills. Now I can feel the difference.”
She said talking in front of people doesn’t bother her like it used to and Toastmasters has provided her with many helpful tools.
“It means a lot,” Bassitt said of her recent honor.
Now that she’s received the Distinguished Toastmasters Award, Bassitt said she plans to continue mentoring other members and help them achieve their goals, as well as visit and evaluate others clubs.
“What I really enjoy most is that everyone is so positive,” Bassitt said of her involvement in the Toastmasters. “Everyone is so positive and I love going to district conferences. I always learn so much and have gained confidence.”