Always A Smile At Thunderbolt’s Front Desk
By Daisy Finch
Those who have visited Thunderbolt Middle School, have probably seen her sitting at the front desk, ready to take a call, register a student, check you in and answer questions.
Her name is Susan (Sue) Blanchard, the staff assistant of Thunderbolt Middle School.
Sue was a Californian before she moved to Lake Havasu City. While there, she worked in customer service in the private industry before realizing that she wanted to work at a school instead.
“It took stepping stones to get there,” Blanchard recalls. She began her journey by working at a community college, sending out transcripts (“Most boring job ever!”) before she was hired at Temple City High School to work as an attendance clerk. “I really loved that job, but had to give it up to move to Lake Havasu,” she said.
She became a Havasuvian in the summer of 1989.
“There was no doubt in my mind I wanted to work my way back into a school once I moved here. I fell in love with the middle school and found myself “stuck in the middle” for the remainder of my career. … Middle school students are often misunderstood, which is probably why I get along with them so well,” Blanchard said.
So, 27 years ago, she joined the Lake Havasu Unified School District (LHUSD) as a substitute aide. Before long, she began working at the district office, assisting personnel and the special ed department. The next step was middle school.
“In the fall of 1992, I was hired by Phil Olmstead, Principal of Lake Havasu Junior High, as a staff assistant. Thunderbolt opened its doors the spring of 1994 and I’ve been here ever since,” Blanchard said.
For Sue, there is “never a dull moment at middle school.” The list of responsibilities she tackles on a regular basis as the “frontline person at the school” could be called a hefty one. The job title of staff assistant entails answering phone calls, handling student and parent needs, “parent communication via announcements, newsletters, Facebook, and blackboard messages, registering new students, locker assignments, sending out and collecting registration packets for the following year, updating personal information, scheduling parent-teacher conferences, support staff time cards,” and random tasks throughout the day.
These “miscellaneous duties” include covering for the attendance clerk and school nurse when they are absent, and fulfilling the role of Thunderbolt’s substitute coordinator, which means “securing substitutes and making sure classes are covered in a teacher’s absence.” Never a dull moment indeed.
Despite the seemingly daunting workload, she always enjoys the variety that every new day brings and loves the students and staff that she gets to work with. Blanchard said, “We have an amazing staff and I’m not sure how I got so lucky to have a job I’ve loved so much for so many years.”
She has also seen a glimpse of the impact that she makes on the lives of Thundercats.
Blanchard recalls, “Many years ago, a troublesome student from a dysfunctional household told me, ‘You are like a mom to like a thousand kids.’ I will never forget that statement. Sometimes, those of us who work at the school are a child’s security and safety net. Some call me an enabler, but if I enable or am kind to someone in need, it’s worth it. It is my honor to be ‘like a mom’ (I guess grandma these days) to those kids who may need it.”
Sue is still happy to be “stuck in the middle” today. When she sees previous students, all grown up and enrolling their own children, and they say, “I remember you when I went here,” it reminds her of the circle of life. Blanchard said, “I’m honored to be a part of it. Someday, my career will end and I’ll have to retire, but I can’t imagine life without these crazy kids. They keep me young and provide daily entertainment. I will forever be grateful for the satisfaction of such a rewarding career.”
So, the next time anyone happens to stop by Thunderbolt Middle School, be sure to check in with Mrs. Blanchard at the front desk; she’ll always be happy to help.