Elyse Wyatt has been almost a fixture in the SD#1 schools for 35 years. For many, it’s hard to imagine the front office at Rocky Mountain Middle/High School without her smiling face.
“I loved the job, that’s why I stayed for so long. It was kind of a hard decision to quit, but it was time,” said Wyatt, who recently became a widow after 50 years of marriage.
“All of my plans included my husband, so now I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do,” she said.
Wyatt began working in the school district when her son was in school. Since it was prior to the district consolidation, she worked at the school in Frannie.
“The elementary school was planning to put in a library, so I volunteered to help put the library together,” explained Wyatt. “Then they decided to make a job of it and asked people to put in their applications. I applied and I got the job.”
At first, she worked part time as the school’s librarian and part time as a Title I aid and also worked in the kitchen at Frannie Elementary School. She was later transferred to the high school in Byron to work as the school’s librarian. When the front office position became available she was transferred again to work in the office. She moved with the rest of the office staff to the new high school building in Cowley, where she worked until her retirement.
“The office job is a high stress job,” she said. “You’re kind of at everyone’s beck and call. We’re always given the answer, we just have to figure out what the question is.”
She said what she loved most of all was interacting with the students.
“I just love the kids,” she said. “We are so lucky here because, for the most part, we have good parents and good kids.”
She said she will also miss her fellow employees.
“I’m also going to miss the people I work with,” she said. “I don’t know what it’s like to work in other places, but I do know they treat the support staff very well here at our schools.”
She said the hardest time during her tenure with the school district was when the schools consolidated and then later when they moved into the new school building in Cowley.
“It was a time when there was a lot of anxiety, when three towns got put together, especially since the kids were all used to being rivals,” she said. “It took a while especially for the older kids to adjust but eventually they all became Grizzlies and shared that school pride that comes with that.
“It actually took about four years for that to happen. It was hard on our freshmen but not as hard on them as it was on our older kids. You can only imagine what it was like for a kid who was a junior in Byron to go from being a Byron Eagle to suddenly becoming a Grizzly. I think it was hard on those seniors at the time.”
As for the move to the new school, she said it was also a challenge for the office staff, who went from knowing where everything was located to being confused about even where the classrooms were located.
“It was hard on us (the office staff) in a different way, because in a way we all felt lost,” she said. “Also, we put two schools together (a middle school and a high school), so there was a lot of adjustment there, too.”
She said the benefits far outweighed the inconvenience, in that the location of the office is closer to the main entrance of the school, allowing office staff to control who enters and exits the school and the location in Cowley is more central for students traveling from the Deaver/Frannie area.
Being an early riser, she said she is still up at 5 a.m. Though she doesn’t have to rush off to the office, she finds plenty to do at home.
“I’m a great one for planning my day and it’s great to be able to take care of things when you want to, instead of around your work schedule. I’m so used to having to cram everything into the weekend that needed to get done during the week. I’m having to get used to the idea now that I can spread things out and I don’t have to do them all at once.”
She said she has a bucket list of sorts, including travel, painting and even co-authoring a children’s book.
First on that list of things to do is a trip to Japan to visit her granddaughter Jessica Kloes and her husband Jason and three young children. This will be Wyatt’s first trip out of the country and it’s a big one, involving more than 5,000 miles of air travel. The family lives on a U.S. military base near Tokyo. She said she plans to stay for a while, depending on how long her visa will allow.
She also plans to visit her son Shane and his family in Virginia and to spend more time with her daughter Lisa, who lives in Powell.
She said her son and daughter-in-law would also like to take her to Ireland and, compared to Japan, she said “it doesn’t seem like such a long trip.”
Wyatt enjoys painting and drawing and though she is modest about her talents, she has sold paintings at art shows in the past. She said she hopes to spend a substantial amount of time on this hobby.
“I hesitate to call myself an artist, but I have done stuff for people who ask me individually and I have sold some of my work,” said Wyatt.
She said she has taken art classes in the past and would like to take more art classes.
She also is planning to co-author a children’s book with her daughter-in-law and she plans to take an illustration class, so she can create the illustrations for the book, as well.
“Those are just some of the things in the works,” she said. “I’m not really sure what else might come up.”
By Patti Carpenter