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From Skinned Knees to Shoveling Snow, She Does it All

When it comes to her role at Alto Elementary School, Vicky Pratt’s philosophy is pretty simple. “If it needs to be done, I don’t mind doing it,” Pratt says, taking a break from her job as office assistant for the 480-student school.

The aroma of fresh popcorn permeates the front office, where a big bowl of it sits in front of her desk. Students and parents come by to nibble and chat as she fields phone calls on the monthly popcorn-sale day. It’s all part of the ebb and flow of school life that she loves.

“I just enjoy working with the kids, watching them grow and change, from when they arrive in September to when they walk out in June,” says Pratt, her blue eyes lighting up.

Delight in her work is undoubtedly one reason Pratt recently was named administrative assistant of the year by the Kent County Education Association. She and others were to be honored at a KCEA banquet May 7. Patti Harreld, Murray Lake Elementary library media assistant, and Scott Rollins, high school custodian, were other Lowell staff Patti Harreld, Murray Lake library media assistant, also was honored by the KCEAhonored by the teachers association.

Pratt, in her fourth year at Alto, said she had to re-read the letter informing her of the award, adding, “There’s so many people doing a fantastic job (in Kent County) that I feel very honored and humbled.”

Not Afraid to Shovel the Snow

It was a double honor for Alto. Pratt’s office mate Bonnie Gokey, administrative assistant to Principal Randy Fleenor, previously won the KCEA award.

“That’s really what makes a school function well,” Fleenor said of the women’s multiple tasks. “Those two ladies are fantastic.”

In Pratt’s case, her daily duties include everything from tending to sick students and monitoring their immunizations to running the copy center and greeting students off the buses. For many students, her cheerful face is their first impression of the school day.

“She’s not afraid to get in there and roll up her sleeves,” Fleenor says. “Sometimes in the winter she’s out there shoveling the sidewalk. There isn’t a lot that she doesn’t do.”

Pratt comes by her can-do ethic honestly. She is the mother of three grown children – Angie, Maggie and Caleb – who all attended Alto. She was a parent volunteer, reading to students in class and supervising them on the playground. She served as an office assistant at Lowell Middle School and at Alto before taking an administrative job with the Girl Scouts for five years.

When she returned four years ago to the office at Alto, she says, it was “kind of like coming home.” She calls Alto a “fantastic” school, with an active PTO and committed staff in a far rural reach of the Lowell district.

Pratt takes care of many duties from her desk at Alto Elementary SchoolMaking Students Feel Cared For

Above all, she loves the students. She takes care of their skinned knees, calls their parents when they’re sick and finds a lunch partner when they’re eating alone. She also helps them in projects like making vegetable sculptures and raising money for the proper care of pet pigs.

Pratt, you see, owns a domesticated pig named Gloria and writes the newsletter for the Pig Placement Network, which rescues unwanted pigs and places them in caring homes. The student council staged a contest and raised $771 for the network. Pratt brought Gloria to their classrooms to thank them.

Among all her duties, she says, the most important is making students feel valued.

“Both Bonnie (Gokey) and I, our role is to make everyone feel welcome, feel heard, appreciated and cared for,” she says. “I want them to be so supported that they are confident to take on whatever they want to do as they go forth.”


Alto Elementary School

Pig Placement Network

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio or email Charles.


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