By Alli Kling
Principal secretary Sheila Stewart sits behind her desk in the office, taking calls, talking to her coworkers, and organizing the various files, classes, and records that are vital to the school.
Stewart has worked in the school system for over three decades. Before this, however, she worked at several businesses in Southern Indiana.
“I had other jobs before I came to the school system. I worked for American Air Filter and Target, and then I came here. I’ve been here for 32 years,” said Stewart.
During this time at FC, she has become the caregiver, the mother, and now the grandmother to the staff and students, Stewart explained jokingly. As explained by attendance clerk Laura Shaffer, Stewart has become like family.
“Her nickname is Spanky, so that explains it all,” Shaffer said with a laugh. “When she’s feeling well, [she is] very fun and energetic. So, on her good days, she is Spanky.”
Shaffer and Stewart have known each other for over 20 years, collecting a variety of good memories and sharing multiple laughs. One in particular stood out to Shaffer.
“We had a shower for a coworker when she got married, and we did a skit where we all sang. That was a pretty good memory,” said Shaffer.
Being the principal’s secretary, she also meets with new students and their families upon their arrival at FC, helping them make new memories as well. Introducing new students to the school environment is one of her favorite jobs.
“I think it’s really important for new kids who come here, that they feel comfortable and their parents feel comfortable. So, I’m kind of a light-hearted, crazy kind of person and I really try hard to make those kids feel at home,” she said.
The home atmosphere can completely affect how well a new student fits into their new school. In Stewart’s case, she wants to give the kids a relaxed and homey environment here at school as well.
“We don’t want anyone to feel like they’re coming to a new school and going to be left alone. Many times, we talk to parents. If the parents are relaxed, the home atmosphere is relaxed as well. It’s hard changing schools. That’s probably one of the most difficult things our kids’ face.”
Likewise, it is sometimes difficult to not get involved in the students’ lives.
“[The hardest part is] trying not to worry about some of my kids. I really struggle, and I don’t think people realize that there are many, many kids who are broken at home, and many kids come to school with a lot on their heart and mind,” she said.
Her philosophy is that if you can make a difference in one kid’s life, you’ve made a big difference. She goes everyday with this in mind.
“God has blessed me so many times. I don’t think he wants me anywhere else,” said Stewart.
Those who are impacted daily by Stewart couldn’t agree more. Principal Rob Willman has known Stewart since 1999, and claimed that having her as his secretary has impacted how he and the school goes about the day.
“Oh, yeah. It would be very different without her. She makes things run a lot more smoothly than people understand. She’s involved in a lot of details,” said Willman. “Typing things up, making sure people are notified of things–that’s what she does, and she is very good at it, very detail-oriented.”
Outside of school, Stewart has been married for nearly 50 years, living a happy life with her family.
“I have a very good home life. I’ve been married for 45 years, and it’s just a peaceful place. God is the center of our heart.”
She has two children, both fully grown. Her first recently turned 43 and the other is 38. Both are FC graduates.
Although Stewart’s favorite vacation spot is Gatlinburg, the whole family may be found heading to Patoka Lake.
“I don’t do it very much, but we go boat riding and fishing.”
Even in her spare time, when she can find it, one will not find Stewart dallying about. Never having been a reader, and not one for movies, Stewart is always on the move. But, when forced to sit down, she will switch to the Food Network for entertainment.
“I don’t watch movies. I don’t have time for that! I do like Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America. I watch cooking shows, go to work, come home, sleep, and watch cooking shows,” Stewart said with a laugh.
However, at the end of the day, Stewart finds her job to be her happy place.
“I love it. On Sunday nights, I still get anxious to come to school on Monday, just like I did when I was in school,” she said. “When you stop loving your job, it’s time to look for something else…I love my job–it is my life.”