The First Face You See

Morse Elementary secretary Mary Curl joins kindergartners as they take a Brain Break and move around between lessons.
(photo by Rodney Curtis/School Life Troy)

Mary Curl walks down a long hallway at Morse Elementary, looking for a class to pop into and say hi.

“Mary is the first (and best!) face you see when you walk into Morse. She’s welcoming, caring and beyond loving to all,” said Lauren Cooper, Second Grade Teacher at Morse. “She begins her day way before the rest of us and ensures all students (and staff) are good to go before she leaves for the day.”

Some students are leaving the media center and they wave, say hi, hug Mary as they go by.

“Mary is a kind, calming force at Morse,” said Jennifer Hilzinger, ELD PARA. “Her compassion for students, families and teachers is contagious and has been integral in creating the special ‘whatever it takes’ mindset at our school. She will be dearly missed by ALL.”

A teacher, a few students and a parent pass by, smiling as they see Mary.

Mary has spent 22 years in the district. (photo by Rodney Curtis/School Life Troy)

“Mary is and has been the lifeblood of Morse. Whatever a kid needs, whenever a parent has a question and whatever it takes to serve this community, she’s it!” said Morse Elementary principal Stephanie Zendler. “Personally, Mary has been an amazing right hand and friend.”

Mary is retiring at the end of the school year.

“I’ve been in the district for 22 years,” she said. “A lot of things have changed. The kids have always been amazing, though. The technology? Oh my gosh, technology has changed over the years since we started. It seems like we’re learning more and more; it’s exciting.”

This is her 10th year at Morse. A former dental clerk, Mary started out at Bemis and Schroeder Elementaries. Officially she is the Secretary to the Principal, but in reality, she is “Master to All,” piped in fellow secretary Karen Toovalian.

“I’ve been with Mary for three glorious years,” Toovalian continued. “When she’s not around, I have to tell people, ‘You want me to do what? I’m not Mary!’ From a kid stuck in a coat up to their neck — and the teacher’s been trying, trying, trying — to if you ask her for anything, she’s got it. Whatever you need, she’s got the tool. If you need it, Mary has it.”

“And she’s very calm when things get crazy,” Toovalian concluded.

Mary spots a kindergarten class and goes inside just as they’re taking a Brain Break to get up, move around and Go Noodle. Naturally, she joins in with the teacher, students and helpers.

Mary is well-loved throughout the school. (photo by Rodney Curtis/School Life Troy)

“In the almost three years I have known Mary Curl, she has shown some of the most dedication and hard work I have seen from support staff,” said Melissa Batts, Morse Second Grade Teacher. “She tirelessly works above and beyond the call of duty by coming in early to distribute food bags for families, managing frantic parents and students on a daily basis, wrapping gifts for children during the holidays and making sure that every child has what they need to succeed each and every day.”

After dancing with the kindergartners, Mary strolls back up the hallway to the office with an enormous smile lighting up her face. What will she do after retiring, she’s asked.

“Next for me are lots of possibilities,” Mary answers. “First things first, my son’s getting married in August so I’m looking forward to enjoying all of that.”

She will still live in the Troy school district.

“On the first day of school next fall, I am going to stand on the corner and watch the busses go by and be very emotional, very sad that I’m not going to be a part of all this.”

You can take the secretary out of the school, but you can’t take the school out of the secretary.

Postscript. There were even more great things said about Mary:

“From the moment I was hired, Mary always made me feel comfortable. She was patient with all of the questions I had as a new teacher. She always goes above and beyond to help all of our students. I will miss seeing her every day!” said Elizabeth Crawford, a Morse Kindergarten Teacher.

“Mary works to help the teachers and staff members get what they need, even if it is not in her job description. As a new teacher, there are many times I would have been lost without her “let’s-find-an-answer” mentality. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with and know Mary Curl,” said Melissa Batts.

“She’s always gone above and beyond her job duties. I can’t even explain how many times I call her in a day. Mary has become a great friend of mine. I truly can’t imagine life at Morse without her. Morse is beyond lucky to have Mary as long as we have, but she deserves to start the next chapter in her life. I will forever be grateful for her support, advice, friendship and love,” said Lauren Cooper.

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