Behind the Plexiglass of the Student Office

The+ladies+of+the+student+office+celebrating+an+elf-themed+spirit+day.+Left+to+right%3A+Heidi+Maloney%2C+Kristi+Connelly%2C+Andrea+Gillespie%2C+Patricia+Case%2C+Anita+Maher

The ladies of the student office celebrating an elf-themed spirit day. Left to right: Heidi Maloney, Kristi Connelly, Andrea Gillespie, Patricia Case, Anita Maher

The student office is one of the most populated offices throughout the school day. Meetings with counselors, kids going in and out, lunches are chaotic. Now especially with online learning and mask mandates, less and less students are acquainted with these women. Each of them contributes greatly to the welcoming feeling that people experience when they go to Ferris, and each of them has a unique job despite them all being in the same space.  

“I am the nurse for this entire school. I keep track of over a hundred, closer to two hundred really, care plans for all our students here.” said Patricia Case. “A lot of my job is dealing with COVID for the last year and a half to two years.” 

Kristi Connelly, the data processing clerk here at Ferris, said, “I’m kind of the wizard behind the curtain. I do all of that kind of boring stuff, a lot of spreadsheets and excel and a lot of data, but I like digging into the data and finding out answers.” 

“I’m an attendance secretary at Ferris High School. I enter attendance into the computer for students, I’ll write passes for kids that come late/leave early. I also do disciplines, so when kids unfortunately get in trouble, there’s suspensions and in-school suspensions, that kind of thing. Once administrators put the information into the computer, I’ll print it out and we have to send it downtown, to the parent, keep a copy in the office, so I’ll do that kind of paperwork.” said secretary Anita Maher. 

Guidance secretary Andrea Gillespie said, “I help the counselors plan their day, schedule appointments with students, and try and help them stay on track; and then I also register students and help withdraw students from school.” 

“I am an attendance secretary,” said Heidi Maloney, “and I work with the Becca Law, which is the truancy law for Washington State.” 

Students may even recognize the names of a couple of these women. 

“I’ve been happily married for 25 years to Gary Gillespie, who’s a computer apps teacher over at Sacajawea Middle School.” said Gillespie. 

Some students know these ladies, but not many people know them all the way back to high school. Their ambitions, goals, love life. Some students might not know that working in a school wasn’t always what these women wanted to do. 

“I wanted to be a horse trainer. We had a ranch and we raised horses, and we showed them and bred them, and that’s what I wanted to do.” said Connelly. 

“I wanted to do something in psychiatry or psychology. I thought that would be pretty interesting; I still think it’s pretty interesting, but my life road didn’t take me there, and I ended up here, and I like this too.” said Maher. “Maybe one day in a second life somewhere I’ll become a psychiatrist or something.” 

Then again, some people know what they want to do in their lives from the start, a high school and beyond plan that really went beyond. 

“I’ve wanted to be a school secretary from when I was back in high school. I just thought it would be a fun job; I liked the interaction with students and parents and staff members. It’s a little crazier than I expected, but it makes my job not boring.” said Maloney. 

For some people, the next step after high school is college, graduation, a degree. 

Case said, “I went to college at University of Southern Indiana and also Ivy Tech of Indiana. I got a degree, a bachelor’s in Sociology, and then two or three years later I went back to school and became a nurse.” 

“I attended University of Idaho. I received my bachelor’s degree in General Studies and then I got two minors: one in history and one in English.” said Gillespie. 

Many people understand that these women are secretaries and work for the school, but not many people know the journey that got them there. 

“I’ve been in nursing since 1992. I just kind of fell into this when I lived overseas in Dubai. It just kind of fell into my lap. I wasn’t expecting it, but I was asked to be a nurse in a British school there, and I did that for almost a year. Then I moved back to the states a few years later.” said Case. “I met someone who was in school nursing, and they suggested it to me. So, I worked as a sub for about three years and then I was lucky enough to get this job here at Ferris.” 

“I’ve worked here for about… going on 15 years, and I really enjoy it. I enjoy working with the students and the staff. I think it’s a great place to work. There’s lots of friendly people, and it’s lots of fun.” said Maher. 

Gillespie said, “I was looking for something that was more rewarding, and more purpose based than what I was doing in banking. I wanted to at least attempt to help guide the next generation in some way shape or form, and this is just where I landed and the best fit for me.” 

Connelly said, “Well, I started out at Ferris as a Paraeducator. I moved over here from the West Side, and I only worked for a couple of months there and then I was in the Business office for three years as the ASB bookkeeper. When this position came open over here for data processing, I knew that I wanted to come over here, and again just because of the people that I’d be surrounded by. And I like working with the data; I can close my door and work away.” 

The ladies in the office don’t get many icebreaker questions on the first few days of school like the students do, so they almost never get to share random fact about themselves, like their favorite hobbies or foods. 

Maher said, “I love the Spaghetti Factory, and chicken alfredo, and the brown butter spaghetti. Anything pasta.” 

“I love my dogs, I love crafting, I love snowshoeing. Right now, I’m really into Pilates; I love downhill skiing. Hiking, kayaking, being on the water.” said Connelly. 

“My favorite food – I don’t know if it qualifies as food – is dark chocolate.” said Gillespie. 

“My favorite food is popcorn with lots of butter and salt.” said Case. 

Maloney said, “I’ve got several hobbies, but my favorite is probably baking. Brownies are very popular, cookies, pies. I make candies for the holidays.” 

Another popular icebreaker among teachers this year is the question “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?” 

“I have always wanted to visit Australia and I haven’t made it to that continent yet.” said Maloney. “I don’t even know what I really want to do there, but I just want to visit.” 

“I was pretty fortunate to go to Paris and London a few years ago, so now I think I would like to go to maybe Germany and Ireland. Pretty much everywhere, I would love to see everything, but I don’t know if I have the money or the time in my life to do that. But let’s say Germany and Ireland for now.” said Maher. 

No matter their struggles, nor their successes, these amazing inspirations never regret where they ended up. 

“I’m very happy with what I’m doing now. It’s an excellent career. School nursing is wonderful; I think it’s one of the best nursing jobs you could have.” said Case. 

“Sometimes I wonder if I should’ve pursued something else, but this just feels like the right fit and where I’m supposed to be right now.” said Maloney. “And I love having summers off.” 

“I really liked the atmosphere and the people and the way I could work with the kids, and I liked that it was busy, like almost constantly busy, and I really enjoy not sitting there watching the paint dry on the walls. So that’s how I chose this one.” said Maher. 

“I love working here. I love working with the kids, and I am fortunate to work with a fantastic team of teachers and support staff members that are just fantastic.” said Gillespie. “I think everything happens for a reason and it might not have been what I thought my career path was going to be, but I think it turned out really well.” 

Connelly said, “I like working at Ferris because of the people that I’m surrounded by. The positive energy, the love that they have for helping the kids. That’s the most important thing to me.” 

Most of all, they love to let the students know they’re there for them. 

Case said, “I’m always here for you, I’m open. Always feel free to stop by if you have any health concerns or questions.” 

“Don’t be afraid to come to the student office and say hi, because we like to see the kids. We enjoy their smiling faces.” said Maher. 

“We’ll do whatever we can to help students.” said Maloney.