Rhonda Petitt works at Boyden-Hull desk

Rhonda Petitt, a paraprofessional at Boyden-Hull Elementary, works at her computer in the school office. She splits her time working in the office and helping teachers with small-group activities in their classrooms.

BOYDEN—Rhonda Petitt has been a go-to source of help for students and staff at Boyden-Hull Elementary since 1986.

The 65-year-old Boyden woman, who works as a paraprofessional at the school in Boyden, will retire at the end of the 2019-20 academic year.

Petitt originally had been hired as the school’s first paraprofessional on a part-time basis after having been a stay-at-home mom.

“It was only a two-hour job when I first started, and so some people probably thought that was silly,” she said.

“When I first started, it was just a job to help with the second grade because they had a large class. Then by the end of that year, I was already up to five hours a day.”

Her day-to-day tasks have varied through the years and have included work in the classroom and in the school’s office.

When one of the first Spanish-speaking students enrolled at the elementary, Petitt helped him with his English skills through what eventually became the school’s English as a Second Language program.

“After we started getting more children, then the program became more available and then there was someone else that did that,” Petitt said.

Her other classroom work has consisted of leading group activities that help students master specific skills such as reading, vocabulary and math.

For her, working with kids is the best part about working at the school.

“I just enjoy being around children, and that’s what made what makes the job so much fun is because it’s never really the same every day,” Petitt said.

When not in the classroom, Petitt also has assisted with computer and office work. For instance, Petitt regularly updates students’ information such as their attendance and lunch money accounts. She answers calls and attends to students who come into the office for any reason.

“I help out in the office, wherever they need help, whether it’s with students that come in when they’re not feeling well or answering phones. I’m just kind of in and out of the office,” she said.

One of Petitt’s fondest memories of being in the office was of working alongside Laura Van Meeteren, a high school friend. Van Meeteren had been the school’s secretary before retiring in May 2017.

Since the two have the same birthday, they always celebrated together when they were students.

“We just joked that now that we were older and we had our jobs, we were still able to celebrate our birthdays together,” Petitt said.

She will miss seeing her co-workers — as well as the elementary students — every day once she retires.

Petitt has no set plans for her retirement, although she is looking forward to keeping up with her grandchildren’s many activities.

“I have 11 grandchildren, so that will keep me busy,” she said. “And six of my grandchildren go to Boyden-Hull.”