After 40 years of service to Minford Local School District, Joyce O'Dell was honored with a surprise reception by students and staff at the elementary school on Thursday.
"I'm overwhelmed. I just can't believe this," O'Dell said, still reeling from the surprise of the event.
Before coming to Minford, O'Dell said she was a stay-at-home mother. In 1968, her son was a senior at Minford, looking forward to attending The Ohio State University. She wanted to help pay for his education, so she took a job at the school as a teacher's aide, making $5 a day.
"He went to Ohio State and he graduated, and he's a pharmacist now," she said.
Since she began at the school, O'Dell has worked in the reading lab, art classes, career office and finally took her seat as secretary to the principal, where she has remained for more than 20 years. During her time with the school, she's seen the completion of two new schools for Minford - the first in 1970, and then again with the current school building in 2001.
"When computers came in, I thought I was going to quit," O'Dell said, jokingly, "but I love computers now."
She said she also loves the students and the teachers at the school, and would love to be able to spend another 40 years with them.
"There's no one like her in the world," said Angie Brown, a third-grade teacher at the elementary school.
"Our building could not run without Joyce. She keeps everybody running, and if we need something, we go to her," said Julie Shonkwiler, another third-grade teacher at the school.
In her capacity as secretary to the principal, O'Dell has worked with three school principals. The most recent is Dennis Evans, who now is completing his first year as principal at Minford Elementary.
"I was really nervous about coming over to the building and taking over, but having Joyce has been a godsend, a real blessing. She doesn't really need me to run the building. She runs it just fine without me, all she needs from me is my signature," he said.
Evans said when he first started the job as principal, the outgoing principal - who spent more than 20 years with O'Dell - told him Joyce would be his greatest asset. Evans agreed wholeheartedly, and credited O'Dell for helping him through his first school year.
That sentiment also is shared by Minford School Board and its superintendent.
"I've been here 25 years, and I've know Joyce since I came here. She has consistently been the heart and soul of Minford Primary. We just love her to death, and we hope that she'll spend another 40 years with us," said superintendent Dennis Meade.
During the reception for O'Dell in the teachers' lounge, Meade announced over the loudspeaker for all the school to hear Minford School Board has passed a resolution proclaiming May 22 Joyce O'Dell Day. As he concluded his speech and handed the framed resolution to O'Dell, sounds of children cheering from the classroom filled the hallways of the school.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.