One minute they are making sure the principal is prepared for his meeting, the next they’re helping a student find a bandage for his injured knee, and all the while they’re sorting through emails and fielding phone calls. Who are they? They are the administrative assistants—often compared to the engine of a ship. Without them, things at the school would quickly come to a screeching halt.
Last week, almost fifty administrative support personnel from Christian schools across the province gathered at the OACS Administrative Support Personnel Conference. Attendees were invited to enjoy an inspirational address, attend practical workshops, and to build connections with other administrative assistants.
“The Administrative Support Personnel Conference is an important time for assistants and bookkeepers in the schools, because many of them are fairly isolated for most of the year,” shared OACS Administrative Assistant Judy Tomczak. “This is a really great opportunity for them to get together and connect on a personal level—to share ideas, frustrations, and strategies for doing things better.”
There were several professional development options for attendees to choose from at this year’s conference, including a light-hearted demonstration on how to be a front desk superstar, various financial workshops pertaining to payroll issues and strategies for reporting to the school Board of Directors, and an instructional workshop on the use of Mail Chimp.
The highlight of the day for many of the attendees was listening to keynote speaker Joanne Goodwin, who shared the story of her journey with life-long depression, and what she has learned through her many trials and heartaches. The support personnel who attended were inspired and encouraged by her story, which she shared with humour and transparency.
“Many of our assistants are juggling so many hats, and need to colour outside the lines of their job description every single day,” shared Ms. Tomczak. “This is a time when they get to stop and listen to something that will encourage and strengthen them.”
In addition to the keynote address and workshops, it was important to Conference Co-ordinator Samantha Bevaart that there was time and space built into the conference for administrative assistants to connect and network together. “We were intentional in providing several opportunities throughout the day—over a delicious meal and during our ‘Coffee Corner’—for attendees to network, share their stories and authentically get to know each other better,” shared Ms. Bevaart. “I feel like this time was really embraced by everyone who attended.”
Here are some additional reflections and takeaways that administrative support personnel shared with us about their experience at last week’s conference:
“A highlight at our annual conference is getting together with other administrative assistants, and connecting with the OACS staff. Spending the day together gives us a chance to network, share common concerns as well as get tips and advice. Although we can connect through our group in the edCommons site, it’s still great to get together each year, put faces to names, etc. Our inspirational speaker was as funny as she was inspirational, and our workshops were relevant and practical. We appreciate that the OACS staff take the time to organize (and sometimes lead) the workshops, I think it’s important to attend the conference each year to connect and grow.”
I always enjoy connecting with other school support personnel at the Fall convention. Most of us are the only ones doing our particular jobs at our schools so it is encouraging to hear from others in similar positions. The OACS recognizes the wide scope and varying duties of administrative support personnel and offers something of benefit for all of us, including introduction to the latest technologies.
Joanne Goodwin’s personal account of living with mental illness deepened my understanding and compassion, and also made me laugh out loud! The camaraderie and food are also integral to my enjoyment of the day. Invariably, after a conference such as this one, I go back to school on Monday with suggestions on how things can be done differently/better, and ideas on how to make that happen.
The Administrative Support Personnel day was once again a great day! The time and fellowship with other administrative staff is always a pleasure. I look forward to seeing the familiar faces and “catching up” with women I have met over the years, and meeting new administrative staff as well. We are here to support one another, ask questions, give great ideas, learn from one another! The goodies with coffee and lunch is awesome! I am always inspired with the inspirational speaker. Every year I take something back to school to help me be a “front desk superstar!” Great job everyone!