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‘A real family atmosphere’ created at school

When one door closed, another one opened for Shela Stevens who works in the county school system.

She began a career in retail working in the receiving department at Leggett Department Store in South Boston.

Stevens would work there for nine years before finding her true calling as an administrative assistant at Volens Elementary School.

Unfortunately, Volens Elementary closed in 2001, and Stevens had to find a new “home.”

Someone in the office at Sydnor Jennings Elementary School was getting ready to retire, and they were looking for a replacement, recalled Stevens.

Stevens will have been in her position as an administrative assistant for a total of 23 years this August.

And it’s never a dull day in her position. She does all the bookkeeping, checks out students, handles bus notes and works on reports due to central office, handles teacher absentees and is responsible for payroll.

“No day is ever the same. It’s busy from the beginning to the end. It’s very interesting, especially in the early morning and late afternoon,” said Stevens.

The tenured secretary said the best part of her job is she gets to interact with the students and be around the children. She gets to be their friend.

“We’re often seen as a grandmother figure, and I try to treat the children like they were my own grandchildren,” said Stevens.

Through the years, Stevens said she has seen many changes but the one thing that has changed the most in the schools for students and faculty is the technology.

The ways in which students have used technology over the years and the way they can use it today has really changed, said Stevens.

Stevens said the most memorable part of her job is when she goes out to eat or to the grocery store, and she’ll see former students, and they still recognize her.

“They recognize me and want to know if I’m still working as the secretary,” said Stevens.

The administrative assistant praised the work environment and how well all the faculty and staff get along. Once a year, they all come together and put on a variety show that generally raises more than $2,500 that goes toward the purchase of teachers’ needs for the classroom.

In the past they have portrayed Elvis and other rock stars, but on March 16 at 7 p.m. they will bring to life Lynard Skynard, Johnny and June Cash, MC Hammer, Little Big Town and Alabama.

“We’re a real family atmosphere. You won’t find a faculty and staff any closer,” said Stevens.

She admits although she loves her job, if she weren’t working with the school system, she’d be doing something else with her second love, cooking.

According to the tenured administrative assistant, parents of the students at Sydnor Jennings feel their children are safe when they attend school.

“This is a small community, and we go to church with a lot of the families. We really do care. We don’t just do our job we love their children,” Stevens concluded.