Celebrating Support Professionals: Patty Farrell, Secretary at Big Cross

three elementary students with secretary smilingNot all superheroes wear capes—but some of the best wear smiles.

You’ll see that right away when stepping into the main office at Big Cross Street School. “When adults and children feel welcomed and cared for, it helps us to develop and maintain strong positive relationships,” secretary Patty Farrell says with a grin.

“Patty is a welcoming presence, offering a friendly smile as staff and students enter the office,” says principal Debbie Hall.

“She saves the day with her sense of humor about all situations!” echoes teacher Kim Lewis. “Even when she feels like her head is just above water, she manages to find the humor in the situation. Every day, she takes the time to listen to everyone and truly cares about each person that she works with.”

And she’s working with a huge number of individuals each day. “The most unique aspect of my position as the school secretary is the wide variety of people I come in contact with daily,” says Mrs. Farrell. “Not only am I working with students, parents, faculty and staff in my building, I am also interacting with many dedicated folks throughout the district and community. I find that developing positive relationships is the key to making progress and ultimately reach our goals. I am blessed to be part of a great team in the office with our Principal, Debbie Hall and Attendance Clerk, Diane Ogden. Their years of experience and knowledge of the community, help to ensure that all of our students are getting their needs met. We are all committed to making a difference in the lives of our students and the community.”

Keeping her colleagues informed of building-wide events is one of Mrs. Farrell’s top priorities. “Ensuring the accurate and consistent flow of information across the entire Big Cross team helps to keep everyone focused on the main goal of educating the students in a positive and safe environment. Knowing our students’ safety and wellbeing is what is most important, my hope is by providing daily encouragement and having supportive positive interactions with adults and students alike, our day-to-day challenges can be resolved.”

And Mrs. Farrell’s days are not without challenges! “She always has time to help me with a problem,” says teacher Meghan Quillen. “She can fix the copier like a pro!”

three elementary students with secretary smiling“I find some of the greatest resources can come from the most unique places,” says Mrs. Farrell. “For example, when I first started in the office, I was working on a flyer on my computer and I was frustrated because I couldn’t get it to look right. There was a student dropping something off to the office, so I asked him if he knew how to fix my flyer and the student said, ‘sure Mrs. Farrell, all you need to do is this.’ Three clicks later, my flyer was done and ready to go. In this case, it was a third grade student who was my greatest resource. It is in moments such as these, I realize we all have gifts to offer. I like to call them ‘superpowers.’ It’s all about using your superpowers for good that allows individuals to help each other to grow and reach their potential.”

And Mrs. Farrell’s superpowers are on display outside the main office as well.

“Patty is willing to help in any way possible and will always ask what more she can do,” says Miss Hall. “Last year, Patty secured grant funding from the Elks to purchase two new portable basketball hoops to add to our playground. Along with her husband Frank, Patty went above and beyond and spent a Saturday afternoon putting the hoops together.”

“She co-chairs the Project: Cameron’s Story book collection with me,” notes teacher Jen Chapman. “She does the behind-the-scenes work of filling out labels, counting and sorting the collection letters to go home, hand-signing almost 300 letters to students & their families, and fielding questions, with little to no recognition of how much of an integral part she plays in the success of the collection.”

“I have found this to be true with her time and time again—that she will quietly help faculty and staff with a task with no want or need for accolades,” continues Mrs. Chapman. “Plus, she has a secret chocolate stash that she shares with us when she can tell it’s been a rough day!”

Mrs. Farrell says the most rewarding part of her job is when she knows she was able to help someone. “Whether it is a student, a parent, or a faculty/team member that needs help overcoming an obstacle, it is a great feeling when I can help them to succeed.”

Mrs. Farrell grew up in central New York, graduating from New York Mills Jr/Sr High School and then SUNY Brockport with a degree in Health Science. She has been married to her husband, Frank, “for 26 amazing years” and has two grown daughters, Jessica and Krystyna. “Both of our daughters have graduated from Glens Falls High School and have gone on to complete their four-year degrees at SUNY Plattsburgh and RPI respectfully. They are our greatest success story, and we could not be more proud of the hard working adults they have become. Frank and I are members of the Glens Falls Elks Lodge #81 and volunteer there often.”

“As the lyrics go, ‘what a long strange trip it’s been.’ I started at Big Cross as a Teaching Assistant eight years ago. Now with entering into my third year in the main office, there is no doubt in my mind that this is where I belong and what I am meant to be doing.”