Humans of Maine West
“[My experience with students] has been mostly positive. When students get their Chromebook back from repairs, I see the same happy smile and expression of relief on all of their faces. Some are short repairs; some take a long time to repair, but they all seem happy. One time, I remember we asked a Tech Genius to replace a screen, but they ended up taking the whole thing apart from the bottom and the motherboard actually got zapped. We had to replace the motherboard and fix the screen that was supposed to be fixed in the first place.
“[I wanted to be an] English teacher [while growing up], but the market was opening up for technicians, and I learned a lot of the stuff on my own. I went to school for my technical degree to get certified in A+ Computer Repair. I enjoy fixing all Chromebooks, whether it is screen swap to refurbishing an entire unit. That is what I have been doing for the past three and a half years. It was challenging to learn how to fix small personal computers, but I have always been able to adapt to it. I like working with our Tech Geniuses. They teach me, and I teach them a lot. We work on repairing Chromebooks, and we talk about homework.
“We get here at 7:30 every morning. Our job consists of making sure every student at Maine West has a charged and fully operational Chromebook. We wait for students to come in with their Chromebooks—repairs or loaners, make sure that the charging station is fully operational. We do run into a few issues with students who don’t follow Chromebook policy, and they don’t like to be reminded of it.”
“The school is alive all day. We have the school day, and at night we have a lot of sports activities, theatrical events and a lot of other activities, and just trying to stay on top of all of the things going on is the biggest challenge. As Building and Grounds Director, I am responsible for the condition, safety, upkeep and everyday operations of the building and the grounds—even making sure the grass is cut and weeded. We have a painter here, and an electrician and a handyman who takes care of the woodworking and repairs around the building. I head that department up, and it’s just being responsible for all of those items—not just one. In addition to maintenance, I am also responsible for the second shift, which is our custodial staff, to make sure the building is kept clean.
“My first year and a half here I was a custodian, and then I moved to HVAC technician, where I basically just worked on the heating and ventilation systems, and I did that for 28 years, as well as managing the keys.
“The old keys system was managed by a secretary, and she used to keep [the information] on index cards to keep track of everybody’s keys. When the teachers would turn their keys in at the end of the year, she would have to pull the cards out and go through all of them; when this department took over the keys, the best way to do it was to computerize it. This was back in 1991 when computer activity wasn’t really going around yet, but because of my computer background I asked, ‘Why don’t we put all of that information on a computer and set up a program for it?’ There are so many things you can do; it’s just much more organized. We print out these books every year and it tells you about all the keys that we have and all the doors and what key fits what door; there are hundreds and hundreds of things we have to keep track of. We call it the ‘key lady program’ because that what we called the secretary we had to turn our keys into. It took about six months to get everything in there, and then it just took a process of improving over the years, and every year we have a new idea about how to improve it.
“In 2004, as a practical joke on April Fools Day, the previous Building and Grounds Director, Mr. Curtis Floyd, was going to be late for work that day. The maintenance crew decided to play a trick on him. They removed the doors of the Maintenance Building and pushed one of the auto shop cars into the maintenance building, blocking the door to Mr. Floyd’s office. He didn’t notice the car until after he opened the exterior door. He could not speak. He didn’t know what to say. We still laugh about that trick to this day.
“What’s rewarding about my job is when teachers and students show appreciation for the work that we are doing. When they say, ‘Hey, nice job!’ or ‘That really looks nice!’ That’s what’s rewarding: when somebody takes notice of our work.”
“My sophomore year at Illinois State University, I had a friend who was a senior who said, ‘I’m doing public address for women’s basketball and volleyball. Do you want to do it, since I’m going to be graduating this year?’ So I took him up on his offer and started announcing my sophomore year, and I did that for three years. I did the women’s basketball and volleyball games, so that’s where I learned how to do it. Then at home, after graduating, Maine West’s athletic director at the time called me up, and then it progressed onto other things. So I graduated [from college] in ‘90 and then, in the fall of that year, I started here with volleyball.
“I think the thing I find most rewarding is having the kids, the athletes, come up after the games and say they appreciate it because the game isn’t about me— it’s about the kids out there. I just try to enhance it, make it fun for the crowd, but especially for the players. I try to bring them a little more of a professional atmosphere. I’ve screwed up some names in the past, that’s for sure; but I’ve seen a lot of great things, because not only do [I do announcing] for Maine West, I also do it for Lewis University, for their men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball. I have done NCAA regional championship games which were fun. I’ve gotten to do super-sectionals here too. I just enjoy the big games. Like a player, they say the bigger the game, the more they enjoy it, and it’s the same for me. Once, I was doing a Lewis volleyball game, and they were playing at the University of San Diego; this is going back years so they didn’t have the big scorers tables that they do now. They just had a little table, and I was sitting on the end. One of the San Diego players went flying into me; somehow I was able to catch him, and I kind of broke both of our falls. Their coach came up to me right after and says, ‘Oh thank you! You just saved our star player.’ Overall it’s just doing the big games that I enjoy best. It’s doing stuff like the regional championship and super-sectionals—those are the things you remember.”
“Most people here call me Grandma because I’ve had three grandchildren come through Maine West in the past few years; Jake Riportella was the most recent graduate, and I’m sure many current students know him. Once my grandkids started calling me Grandma, other kids just sort of picked it up. I love kids—seeing them is my favorite part of each day—so for them to call me Grandma is wonderful; I have 12 grandkids, so what’s a few more?
“I personally feel that I’m respected by all the kids, which makes me feel good, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do anything to discipline people. Have I gone and broken up fights? Oh yes, and I would go and break up a boys’ fight with no problem because if you go between boys they will respect a woman and will hold back. A girls’ fight? I’d never go in between. You have to come in from the back, otherwise you lose your hair.
“My primary job around the school is to welcome kids in at the front and back. If someone comes after the bell has rung, we scan them in and send them off to where they have to go. Normally, if they had no conception of where they were going, maybe if they’re new, I’d get an escort to accompany them to their destination. Aside from that, my job is simply talking to the kids. Before working as a safety monitor at West, I drove school buses for special education kids who went to schools like Maine East and Cumberland. I did that for eight years, but I’ve had my current job for a lot longer.”
“I’m faced with a new injury every day; no two athletes are the same. Every day there’s a new problem or new condition—it keeps the job fresh. I always keep on my feet to make sure the athletes are in their prime performance shape. By creating a personalized rehabilitation program and a unique recovery program for each athlete, I am able to tailor the treatment to their needs.
“Becoming an athletic trainer to me was sort of an accident. I didn’t originally plan on being an athletic trainer. When I went to college, I was originally undecided on my major because I was still unsure what I wanted to study. After a while, I decided that college wasn’t for me so I decided to transfer into the Marine Corps. I spent some time there before I crushed three of the vertebrae in my spine. I decided to go back to college and work with the football team as an equipment manager. Here, I became familiar with the athletic trainer who I watched work with the football team. I developed an interest for the position and decided that would become my major.
“When I said every day is different from the last, I meant it. I have witnessed some very bizarre and scary things in my career and many of them I still remember to this day. One of the most bizarre things happened at a track meet during my time as a trainer at Western Illinois University. One event that takes place at college track meets is javelin throwing. One athlete was getting ready to throw the javelin when his foot slipped beneath him and he managed to throw the javelin outside of the target area. There was a runner on the track that was tying his shoe by the throwing area, and he got hit in the back with the javelin. We immediately rushed over to help him, but we got called back into the throwing platform because the athlete who threw the javelin had gone into shock after realizing what had happened. They were both rushed to the hospital.
“Being able to help a wide range of athletes is what makes my job so great.”