Tuesday, July 26, 2016

50 Years of Impact -- Ladies full of laughter

Role Models…

As I think about role models in my life, I realize they have come in all ages, shapes and sizes in my life.  But one consistent theme among the woman role models in my life is their laughter.

When I became employed for Benton Community I worked in the Keystone and Van Horne Elementary buildings.  The two secretaries in those buildings were Darlene DeVries and Marilyn Schlotterbeck.  Even though I worked part-time and was only in their buildings a short amount of time during the week, both of them left a lasting impression on me of the importance of laughter in schools.  No matter what, I could count on both of these ladies to help me find my smile on any given day. 

I spent a little bit more time in Keystone Elementary during my weeks and Marilyn and I became kindred spirits.  We would spend many days after school sharing our life stories and helping each other remember life is full of challenges – but how you respond to those challenges really defines who we become.   Each year, when school pictures were taken, I would give one of my pictures to Marilyn and she’d keep it on her desk.  I hope when she looked at it, she was reminded to smile and laugh everyday a little more.  Marilyn worked for Tim Sanderson and when Mr. Junge transitioned into the building, Marilyn stayed and helped Ryan learn the ropes of working in the elementary setting.   Marilyn has always a person I could count on to make me smile and laugh.  Marilyn worked for the District for a total of 30 years.   I value her and our friendship.

Marilyn and her beautiful smile!

When I moved to the MS/HS as a school counselor, the three building secretaries there continued that sound -- laughter.  Peggy Nelson, Shari Stepanek and Deanne Becker were, and are still, full of laughter.  Recently, I took them to lunch and I laughed so much that my mascara was running down my face.  We even got asked to leave the restaurant because they needed to close after their noon meal!

These three ladies were mothers to twelve children and I soaked up all the parenting knowledge I could gain from them – whether they knew I was listening or not.  Each of them supported and listened to the others as they shared celebrations and concerns about being a mom of “teenagers”.  Our oldest daughter, Katie, was in 8th grade, so I knew their stories may be my stories someday – so I better learn what worked!   All of our children are now adults and doing very well thanks to the parenting lessons shared with each other!

They also loved to be part of practical jokes that happened at the MS/HS.  Some of them included:
  • Cans of cat food opened in drawers of desks
  • Unplugging phone cords so when it rang the other person could not hear or talk
  • Greasing phones
  • Calling in sick on April Fool’s Day and Doug Embray being all of them at once, until he looked at the security camera and saw them all smiling up at him
  • Dressing up for Halloween/Homecoming or any other event that was cause for such an outfit
  • Dead squirrels on desks
  • Air hoses ran into offices and turned on to cause a ruckus
  • Putting pictures on the backside of office doors
  • Secretary Day meal and bill that resulted in one administrator saying “We can’t fire them all!”

If they weren’t participating in the practical joke – they were trying desperately to keep their poker faces on.  They knew that all the staff got along in and outside the classrooms and they were a huge part of that culture and wanted to keep it going.  The one thing they did better than any other three women I’ve ever worked with is support and helped one another.  Or as they said “Laughter was abound, but we stuck up for one another!”

Deanne graduated from BC in 1969 and began working for the school in 1989.  Shari started working for the school in 1990 and Peggy followed in 1993.  Their combined years of commitment to the District and their friendship inspires me today to make sure I am working on keeping relationships and laughter a mainstay at Benton. 
Andy & Deanne Becker and their grandkids
Each of the ladies I’ve written about in this blog post has helped form who I am as a mom, wife and BC employee.   Their influence on me has helped me remember to be someone who loves to have fun and help others smile and laugh each day at work!

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