by Meredith Abrams
Former secretary Terry Melanson, who retired earlier this year, said she had more than coworkers at this school—she had a family.
“Everyone cared for each other,” Melanson said. “We supported each other, and somehow, you didn’t mind going to work every day.
“It was such a nice group of people, and I really connected with some,” she said.
Melanson grew up in Waltham and went to high school at St. Mary’s, graduating in 1961.
Following her graduation, Melanson went to work for the New England Telephone Company as a secretary, she said.
Before working in the Newton Public Schools, Melanson was a stay-at-home mom, then a secretary at the company Thermo Electon.
In 1999, Melanson worked as a secretary for about a year at Newton South, followed by about year as a secretary at Oak Hill Middle School.
Melanson moved to this school in 2001, initially in the records office.
“I always liked the secretary, office-type stuff,” she said. “I like the work, I like the environment—it’s always what I’ve liked to do.”
Working at a school was even better than at a business, she said. “I’ve always liked kids anyway, and I loved working with them.”
After the records office, Melanson moved to the guidance department, then to the main office, where she remained until her retirement earlier this year.
Upon beginning to work at this school for the first time, Melanson found that the new job would come to be second nature.
“You get to a new place, establish friendships and fall into a routine,” she said. “It was an adjustment, but I settled in well.”
Originally, Melanson recorded the attendance each day, along with other duties in the records office, she said.
“You had to scan all the sheets from the house offices,” she said.
“I helped out when it was busy—we all pitched in and did a little bit of everything.”
However, her job in the records office did not last. “My position got cut and I ended up working in the main office,” Melanson said.
“It was a different experience, but it was fun,” she said.
Working with students was a highlight of her job, Melanson said. “It was nice to be part of a group that helps people in some way,” she said.
“I felt that I was contributing; I felt that I was needed and I felt that I was doing something good and giving back to the community. Some of the kids were really special,” she said.
“Some just wanted a kind word or someone to talk to, and there were a lot who I looked forward to coming up to talk to me.
“We had a lot of fun, and there were some who were very funny,” Melanson said.
Vice principal Deb Holman agreed that there were some fun times. “Terry was a blast,” Holman said.
“She was really kind, friendly and incredibly funny. She would never let me forget anything, so in the best sort of way, it was almost like working with my mother.
“She knew the things I didn’t want to do and wouldn’t get done, and she wouldn’t let me miss anything.
“I’d be leaving the office and she’d give me the eye in a lighthearted sort of way, and she wouldn’t let me slip up,” Holman said.
“She had a quiet sense of humor and always kept everyone laughing,” Holman said. “She would always help anyone to solve a problem, and not let up until she had.”
The only part of her job Melanson took any issue with was MCAS, she said.
“I’ve always thought MCAS was ridiculous,” Melanson said. “I knew some students who didn’t pass just because they didn’t test well, and not because they didn’t know it.
“I can relate because I was the same,” she said.
“They have the intelligence, and there’s a lot of pressure on the kids—it just doesn’t prove a lot.”
Students and other faculty members are the things that Melanson misses the most, she said.
“It really was a family—the camaraderie, talking to the kids, going over problems with them—everyone supported each other.”
“There was a closeness—everyone was one unit together.”
One period when there was a very strong sense of community was when a teacher passed away some time ago, Melanson said.
“The school really came together and mourned together.”
“It’s been a learning experience, which makes it a little more personal,” Melanson said. “I learned a lot from the students, more so than you would think. They can teach you things you don’t realize.”
In addition to working part-time as a secretary at Bigelow Middle School, Melanson said she hopes to travel.
“I’m going to take some time for myself, and it’s a little bit uncertain what I’m going to do.
“I walk, I go out with friends and I like to read,” she said.
“I try to be with people as much as I can.”