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Voyageur's Best Features of 2005

Retiring member of McGregor School

They combined for 74 years of service
Three paraprofessionals will be retiring at the end of the year
by John Grones  |  April 26, 2005

These three women, Joanne Mickelson, Barb Konsor and Midge Wilson, had two things in common. All felt that watching the students grow from kindergarten to graduation was pretty special. All three school paraprofessionals should know. They combined to provide McGregor School District 74 years of service. All three will be retiring at the end of the school year.

What is remarkable about these three ladies, is not only did they do pretty much everything that was asked of them all those years, but they outlasted several superintendents, principals and teachers.

Barb Konsor has had the longest tenure at the school. When she arrived, Carl Reinertson was the superintendent and Irene Bright was the media specialist at McGregor High School. Barb started working in the media center in the fall of 1978. From there, she took on a number of assignments that included supervising in-school suspensions and working in the special education department. For the most part, her pimary duties have been in the library.

In the early years, Barb worked with Irene Bright until the mid 90s. Later, two more media specialists would come and go, but Barb remained a steady fixture. For the past seven or eight years, Barb has basically managed the library herself.

“Barb’s job has been a lot harder,” said Jack Brula, “because she’s the librarian for all practical purposes,” Jack is the school’s computer coordinator and has an office in the library. He jokingly noted that Barb has been a very good secretary also. “She receives all the calls from people looking for me. I’m usually not at my desk.” Barb takes it all in stride and just lets everyone know, “Jack’s not in... and no, I don’t know where he is.”

In addition to taking care of Jack from time to time, Barb’s main responsiblity has been managing the library. She maintains the books, magazines and newspapers, assisting students with finding information, handles the audio and visual equipment check outs and monitors students taking on-line courses. “I’ve always enjoyed working with the students,” said Barb. “I’m an avid reader myself, so I’ve always encouraged students to read.”

Over the years, Barb has noted a few changes. The first was the addition of an elementary library in 1991-1992. Barb stayed in the high school library and later missed working with the little kids. “I used to go down and read to the students,” she added. “Story time, that was enjoyable.”

Another big change has been the development of the computer. One of the high school computer labs was later moved to the library and there are two computer stations that are used primarily for students taking on-line classes. Barb noted that checking out library books has declined now that students can so easily access information on the computer.

But the change that sticks in her mind the most over the years, has to do with the students, “I enjoyed watching the students grow up and graduate,” she concluded.

Joanne Mickelson came to work at the school a year after Barb in 1979. Her first position was attendance clerk, a position she still has after 26 years. According to Joanne, the attendance position is the reason she was hired. “Kids were coming to school on the bus, but not making it to school,” said Joanne. “My job involved calling the homes and doing some checking.”

So, what did she find out? “They were skipping,” she said as she chuckled. Joanne noted that attendance improved once the students realized someone was checking on them.

Like Barb, everyone knows Joanne. It’s hard to miss her, when her office is located right in the commons where students generally interact. They see her again at mealtimes when they go through the lunch line.

Food service is just one more of Joanne’s responsibilities. Joanne has been taking lunch count for many years. She recalled that she got that job when it was discovered that too many dinners were not accounted for. It is no longer a problem. Joanne enters each student into a computer before they take their meal and sit down. Joanne recalls being the first peson in the school to receive a computer for keeping track of the lunch program. “Mr. Brula gave the three-day crash course,” she said. “I always told him that, ‘If I learned how to use a computer, anybody could.’”

In the past few years, Joanne has also taken over the food service billing.

Joanne’s next responsiblity has been calling for substitute teachers, a job that would appear to be challenging and unrewarding. Not so, according to Joanne. “Challenging, yes, but the people I call have been wonderful. I have enjoyed getting to know the substitute teachers.”

The last duty that Joanne had to mention was one that has not been popular with the principals. Joanne noted that she is pretty good at breaking up fights. “The principals get mad at me, because I get right between the individuals fighting,” she said, noting that girls are harder to break up.

“Once, I grabbed two kids by the collar and dragged them to the principal’s office.” As it turned out, the two students were in possession of illegal substances.

All-in-all, Joanne feels that students have always treated her with respect and they have always apologized for indiscretions. “I just love the kids,” she said. “Following them from kindergarten to graduation to their weddings... and then watching their kids attend school...”

“I’m very close to the students and I’m going to miss them a lot.”

Midge Wilson is also retiring after 21 years at McGregor School. She noted that is was perfect timing.

It was in1984 that she began her first paraprofessional position. The job was after school. “I worked in the library from 3:30 to 7:30 watching students that had no place to go after school,” said Midge. “I also shelved books during that time.”

Midge had many, many jobs after that, and according to her, it seemed like she had something new every year. She recalled the traditional teacher’s aide work of making bulletin boards and correcting papers. Later, she served as a one-on-one aide, worked in Title 1 for a couple of years and then helped out in kindergarten for five years. “That was my longest stretch in one place,” she recalled.

Midge eventually got placed in the high school and at first didn’t want to do this. She later discovered that this fit her fine. She finished up her career as the ‘copy lady’. “I do the copying for everybody in the school,” she noted.

Midge also handled all the in-school suspensions, noon detentions... “and I supervised the girls’ lockerroom in my spare time.”

Midge noted that of all the changes that have taken place over the years, the one that stands out in her mind are all the different superintendents and principals that have come and gone. She also realized that there are just a handful of teachers left from when she started. “There are a lot of new teachers,” she said. “I should know, I meet them right away when they come to me with papers to copy.”

Midge concluded by saying that she is looking forward to going back to just being a housewife. “Now I can do it fulltime.” She also said that between Barb, Joanne and herself, they have 74 years of combined service to the McGregor School District.

Noting the years of service, it is safe to say that these three experienced paraprofessionals will certainly be missed at McGregor school.

This article first appeared in the April 26, 2005 issue of the Voyageur Press.