45 years later…

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 9, 2001

In Alice Petersen’s office at Southwest Middle School, boxes cover an area on the floor.

Saturday, June 09, 2001

In Alice Petersen’s office at Southwest Middle School, boxes cover an area on the floor. They’re filled with holiday decorations, pictures, and lots of memories.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;After all these years, I’m not quite sure what’s mine anymore,&uot; she said.

After 45 years with the Albert Lea School District -&160;and nearly all of them at Southwest -&160;Petersen is retiring. Tuesday is her final official day at work in the school’s attendance office.

Petersen actually began working in the library of the old junior high school (the three-story wooden structure on the east end of the old high school) as a senior in high school.

&uot;Then after I graduated, Carol Eastvold, the librarian, got permission to hire someone full time,&uot; Petersen recalled. &uot;So on July 1, 1956, I started working full time.&uot;

When Southwest Junior High opened for the 1958-59 school year, Petersen began working there in the library. There were 925 students in the building that year, she said.

The following year, she started to work in the attendance office/ nurse’s office/ guidance office, and everything in between, and has been there ever since. &uot;They’ve called it ‘pupil personnel,’ which describes it pretty well,&uot; Petersen said.

In the nurse’s area, she’s taken countless temperatures over the years. She’s checked for head lice. Diabetics come in to test their blood sugar. She’s administered more Ridalin in the past couple of years than she ever imagined she would.

&uot;If it’s anything serious, we call the parents,&uot; she said.

Yearly first aid training has left her feeling confident about just about anything. She remembers the time a boy cut off the tip of his finger, and the time a girl fell through the glass windows in front.

&uot;We had to call the ambulance for that one,&uot; Petersen said.

She’s never known what any given day will be like, given the interruptions. But she said she’s enjoyed working with students, teachers and staff alike.

&uot;We’ve had a lot of good kids here,&uot; she said, but added sadly that those who do come into the office because they’re in trouble have grown more and more disrespectful.

Her job has become more automated over the years. &uot;I used to have to call every parent of every child who was absent,&uot; Petersen said. &uot;Now we have an automated system.

&uot;It’s all on the computer now: grades, report cards, scheduling -&160;they’re all computerized,&uot; she said, adding all the training she’s had has been on the job.

The years have gone by quickly, Petersen said. &uot;I’ve had parents say, ‘You were here when I was a kid,’ and I’ll say, ‘Oh, that couldn’t have been me.’&uot;

But she admits that she’s seen one of her own high school classmates send her own children and now her grandchildren through Southwest.

Petersen has worked for four principals -&160;Vermund Andersen, Robert Moeller, Terry Moriarty and Brian Espe -&160;as well as seven superintendents.

She knows she’ll miss the job. &uot;Absolutely,&uot; she said. &uot;I’ll miss the organization in my life. And I’ve made a lot of friends with teachers over the years. I suppose I could substitute.&uot;

Among those close friends is Southwest’s secretary, Bobbi Schroeder, who was at the school for 39 years. She also retired this year.

Petersen has no immediate plans, but will continue to keep busy with travel, bowling, the Albert Lea LakeView Lions Club (where she’s the outgoing president) and the Albert Lea Wa-tan-ye Service Club.