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On the frontline

Chris Puglia
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 30/02) - Behind every good school is a good secretary.

For the past 11 years Natalie Kelln has been at the office front desk at N.J. Macpherson school.

Almost 300 students walk the halls of the kindergarten to Grade 5 school. Kelln says the interaction with the children is one of the things she loves about her job.

"I like working with kids," she says.

Kelln is the person the children go to when they are sick, looking for information or generally can't find something.

"I help them find anything they've lost, like their backpacks or their shoes," she says.

For one child last year, Kelln became known as the doctor when another child referred a sick student to her.

"She told her to go and see the doctor and she'll make you feel better," says Kelln.

While talking to Yellowknifer, Kelln gave a kindergarten orientation tour, letting the children know where they can go for assistance. One more duty in the busy life of a school secretary.

"I wear many hats," she says.

Supporting students is just one of Kelln's many responsibilities. She handles all the day-to-day office duties at the school, such as answering phones, filing and tracking students who have not shown up and the school has yet to hear from.

She also supports faculty in any way she can.

"Sometimes it's just sitting in a classroom with a book because the teacher has to take an emergency phone call," she says.

Kelln says she loves the helpful atmosphere that is very predominate in the school.

"The support I have makes it easy to come to work and to want to come to work," she says.

Kelln moved to Yellowknife from Saskatchewan 14 years ago. She has three children who have gone through the school system and one more in Grade 6. Having her own children schooled and graduated, she says it is neat to watch other kids advance through their schooling. Sometimes past students even visit.

"It's nice to see them. They've gone through the system and they still come back for visits and that is real neat. You know you've touched their lives in some way if they come back to their old elementary school," said Kelln.

Her job is an important one, but she sees herself as a part to a larger machine.

"People say you (the secretary) run the school, but that's not true. We work as a team. We're all willing to pitch in when needed. It's a great team to work with."