Longtime secretary bids Beeman Elementary farewell
NEW HAVEN — A lot has changed since Mary Pat Roche first began working at Beeman Elementary School 27 years ago. The longtime school secretary has weathered evolving technology, watched generations of families pass through the New Haven school, and most recently navigated the shifting currents of public education during a global pandemic.
Amid such changes, Roche has remained a constant at Beeman Elementary. Now, at 69, Roche is preparing to bid farewell to her seat in the front office.
Reflecting on her time at Beeman, Roche said she’s enjoyed the nearly three decades she’s spent at the elementary school.
“I’ve had the best job, seriously. I’ve had the best principals and the best workmates. I’ve made lifelong friends here with our staff, current and past,” Roche said.
Roche began working at Beeman in 1996. Before her tenure in the front office, Roche helped out at the elementary school by volunteering with the kindergarten class her daughter Sarah was in.
“When I started working at Beeman, my daughter was going into first grade here,” she recalled. The job became available, I applied and that’s when it began.”
As the elementary school secretary, Roche’s responsibilities over the years have largely included administrative tasks like answering phone calls, facilitating school orders and setting up field trips.
Though, Roche has worn plenty of other hats during her time at Beeman, offering a hand with what’s needed at the small school.
“I help out by putting on Band-Aids when our nurse isn’t here,” Roche said of her daily tasks. “I’m in contact with parents, I do the school Facebook page. It’s little bit of everything.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Addison County in 2020, Roche’s responsibilities shifted further outside of the front office. She traveled around town helping deliver school lunches and worked to prepare for students’ hybrid return to the classroom.
Helping out with a little of everything has given Roche the chance to get to know the students who have come and gone from Beeman Elementary School throughout the years.
Roche said one of the things she’s enjoyed most about her time at Beeman has been getting to take part in annual school activities with those students.
“I love our traditions, which I hope continue long after I’m gone,” she said. “We have a longstanding tradition of walking to the cemetery after Memorial Day. We walk to the local cemetery and our fire department leads us; it’s been a tradition for probably over 150 years.”
Another of Roche’s favorite traditions is bringing students to Middlebury College for Judi Smith Day. The yearly visit was started around 28 years ago, after the passing of Smith, a former first-grade teacher at Beeman who would take her students to the college.
Each year, students visit Middlebury College before the start of winter break to skate at Kenyon Arena and play in the field house.
“The whole school gets to enjoy both activities,” Roche said of the tradition. “I always stay on the ice rink, I like to skate.”
Getting to know students and their families is another one of Roche’s favorite parts of her time at Beeman. In particular, meeting the class of kindergartners the elementary school welcomes each fall.
“What I really enjoy most is kindergarten registration day, I love when the new families come in,” she said.
Roche has watched many students move through the school, including students’ whose parents also attended Beeman during Roche’s time at the school.
“That’s what made me decide maybe I shouldn’t be here,” Roche said jokingly. “Kids that sat here in kindergarten are now married and bringing their kids in. I’ve seen quite a few (families).”
As she enters retirement, Roche said she is excited to spend more time with her granddaughter, ride her horse and test out the new camper she and her husband, Paul, recently purchased. She also plans to work part-time at The Old Lantern Inn and Barn, a wedding venue in Charlotte where she’s spent 12 years as the bar manager.
Though she’s looking forward to what’s ahead, Roche said leaving Beeman will be bittersweet.
“I’m excited to retire, but I’m sad to walk out the door for the last time,” she said of her departure. “Our (school) sign says it’s ‘a great place to learn,’ and it’s true, and it’s also a great place to work.”
Beeman Elementary School Principal Travis Park commended Roche for her contributions and said that she has been an essential part of creating a positive environment at Beeman.
“Mary Pat is the epitome of what Beeman stands for, I’m 100% sure that Beeman has been a great place to learn because of the (27) years of joy, kindness, compassion and dedication she brought to work every day,” he said.
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