When the topic of careers comes into a conversation, I hear different opinions about teachers. Some blame us for the way the world is these days, while others say we have a straight shot to heaven.

Many are appreciative for the time, patience and love we have for our bear cubs, and I am thankful for the respect. However, I can’t honestly accept any recognition without the unsung heroes of those with whom I had the pleasure to work.

I don’t just mean my colleagues, the lifeline of this profession. I mean those who are “behind-the-scenes” but are so incredibly important to a successful school they deserve recognition. So, here they are in no particular order:

Administrative assistant

Also known as the school secretary, this hero is reminiscent of scenes in a movie where the villains come at them at once. The hero takes them on simultaneously and, at the end of the scene, all is calm.

Administrative assistants, also know as school secretaries, are the “Figurative Firefighters” in the school, according to columnist Michele Campbell. They somehow manage to put out all the school fires with precision and calm, she writes. (Catholic Herald illustration by Kristina Kloke using freepik.com images)

That is much like the scene in any school office. The phone is ringing, a student needs a copy of this, a parent comes in with a last minute dentist appointment in five minutes, Jacob is puking in the health room and little Emily has “something crawling in my hair that itches.”

I have called them the Figurative Firefighter. They somehow manage to put out all of these fires with precision and calm. In addition to putting out the fires, they take the time to delightfully tell the K4 cub her favorite snack is the very snack that child brought that day.

Her mind is a Rolodex of numbers for copier repair complete with model number and which teacher forgot to submit attendance. At the end of the day, all fires are put out. She goes home satisfied with a job well done and is aware future fires are smoldering with every sniffle a child has.

Maintenance team

These heroes are the ones who are there when Jacob puked in the classroom, armed with the disinfectant pellets and rubber gloves. They are the ones who make sure our parking lot is plowed or shoveled; often seen doing the same parking lot several times a day.

Our maintenance superheroes can get a few more years out of the heating system installed about the time the Ice Age occurred. They restore tranquility to a lunchroom full of bear cubs who dropped their fishy crackers or spilled their full thermos of SpaghettiOs.

They unstick windows, they move that file cabinet from 1970, yet, they take the time to see how you are doing. They are the cardiologists of the school who keep its physical heart beating.

Teaching assistants

These heroes are the ones who, in my world, fill my gaps. They remind me of the upcoming field trips I have, schedule the field trips, collect the money for the field trips, and call the parents who forgot to send the money for the field trips. They fill in for a moment while teachers have to leave the room, “to go to the office.”

They cut out the stegosaurus for dinosaur week without complaining, they figure out how many copies are needed for each reading group, they type spelling lists and somehow know what I need even before the thought comes to my mind.

They are the heroes with the crystal ball who have saved this teacher many times. Personally, I have loved my teaching assistants and am honored to call them dear friends.

Parent volunteers

These heroes are much like teaching assistants. They fill the gaps on the playground, serve lunch for “pizza day,” manage the cubs while they devour the pizza, help the librarian check out books, and listen to first graders read out loud to name a few.

They push the cart of prizes for good behavior and for me, manage the SnoopyStore prizes. Possessed with amazing organizational abilities, they can coordinate school-wide dances, walk-a-thons, and fundraisers successfully. They create seasonal classroom parties, complete with original activities that would make Pinterest jealous.

Yes, they have a vested interest in the school, but it takes a big heart to contribute their time toward their vested interest.

Specialty teachers

These heroes are really unsung in my opinion. While not classroom teachers, these teachers have to go through the same professional development as classroom teachers. The most significant shout out to them is the fact they have to know hundreds of names, names of the students of an entire school or system.

They are our heroes for 30-45 minutes of teacher rebooting while the class attends the specialty classes of music, Spanish, library, gym and art. They offer the cubs something this musically and artistically challenged teacher can’t. Kudos to all of you!

Principals, administration, priests and parish staff

These heroes are the heart and soul of a Catholic school. Principals handle the fires when the whole town is up in flames, so to speak. They manage the firefighters (teachers), the townspeople (students), the town’s city council, (parents), FEMA (archdiocese) while maintaining sanity while finding a sub for a teacher who caught Jacob’s flu.

Administration makes sure there are enough finances to keep the pulse of the school alive, while answering, “which box do I check for my taxes?” for this teacher.

Parish staff is the crucial connection between church and school especially during reconciliation and first Eucharist.

They keep us organized by letting us book the lunchroom with ease, three months or three hours prior to an activity. Priests have an important job of taking the Word of God and breaking it down into words and terms that children understand. Quite honestly, I understand it better at the school Masses.

We celebrate Catholic Schools Week at the end of January. Although we celebrate the teacher and student, we must go deeper. All of these shout-outs are for people who do this for far less money than the public sector, put in twice the amount of time, on the best budget possible, with what they have.

I think we all do it because we have such faith, respect and love for the Ultimate Teacher. The rest are just details.

Happy Catholic Schools Week to all.

(Michele, a freelance writer, teaches third grade.)