A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Michelle Atherton

A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Michelle Atherton

We all see the perky, always-smiling secretaries in the front office. They greet us every morning, admit us into the school when we are tardy and let us know when we have various appointments. They are basically a personal secretary for everyone in the school, and they handle their job quite gracefully.

Michele Atherton is Crown Point High School’s receptionist, and she is faithfully at her desk every morning to recite the pledge with students, and inform students of upcoming events.

“I wanted to work with the kids, and be able to relate with them and help them in a school setting, and with the parents so I can work one-on-one with the parents to help with the student, and I just feel that was something I always wanted to do, I’ve always wanted to work with students,” Atherton said.

Education is a taxing field to enter, and anyone who is in the field can attest to that. However, the satisfaction that educators, and faculty members receive far outweighs the toll of being in education. Atherton must arrive at the school early every morning to let students in, and prepare for her day ahead. Atherton has daily duties such as distributing passes to students, calling students out of class to be dismissed, reciting the pledge every morning and informing students about what is going on during the week. These duties sound simple, and even mundane, but each task poses a challenge.

“Daily challenges are first starting off in the morning making sure we have all the substitute teachers available for all the teachers that are not here, I do that first thing in the morning,” Atherton said. “I make sure I’ve gone through all the e-mails to see if there’s something that has to be announced, I make sure I get the pledge going on time, I also have phone calls [from] parents who are asking questions about anything that goes on during the school [day].”

While some may think that secretaries are just hired to take phone calls, and catch up on pop culture, that is not the case. Atherton is in the heart of the school, taking in the hustle and bustle of the students and teachers.

Her desk or her “nook” has almost a perfect 360-degree view of the school, which allows her to observe everything that goes on during the school day. Not only does Atherton ensure that students sign out at the proper time, she also ensures substitute teachers get to where they need to go.

She’s like an at school mom. She ensures you get your passes, directs you when you are lost and makes sure that you are aware of your after school activities. And while she does all of this, Atherton is constantly learning. She learns something new every day and makes a point to do so.

“I’m constantly learning something new every day, I always try to say ‘Hey, I learned something new today.’ Just learning, that’s what I think is very interesting,” Atherton said. “I’m learning different things all the time, I’m learning that the bells are off today. I’m learning that Zach’s grandma came in, Lorek who is also related to the Lorek brothers. There're so many things that you’re learning as your sitting here that you wouldn’t even think about.”

Atherton has 2700 students to keep track of, and a couple hundred teachers to account for. She also must answer phone calls, and make note of any messages, which she does on a yellow legal pad. A job like that requires patience and a high attention span. Atherton must remain alert at all times, even when she first arrives at her nook.

“Keeping track of everything that’s going on, and around me that’s the key. It’s not just sitting here on the phone,” Atherton said.

However, Atherton is not alone in her endeavors. Her “partner-in-crime” Maria Jatis which helps her get through the day. Not only does her partner-in-crime help, but so does her new found “best friend” a hands-free Bluetooth headpiece which allows her to efficiently multi-task.

With all of the commotion that rushes through the main office, Atherton believes it is the simple gestures that make her job worthwhile.

“I think every now-and-then someone will say ‘thank you.’ I think thank you is a [phrase] that isn’t used a lot because I think that people just take it for granted,” Atherton said. “When a parent comes in here [and] needs something, and they look at you and they say thank you, you know that you did something good. I think that’s the whole thing, you need to feel good about yourself and know you accomplished something that way.”