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What I Do

Shanick Williams, school secretary

New York Teacher
Shanick Williams
Jonathan Fickies

As a school secretary at PS 154 in Harlem, Shanick Williams provides support — and smiles — to administrators, staff and families.

Why did you become a school secretary?

When I was a kid in school, there was a secretary who made everybody smile. She had little toys on her desk, and she made everybody feel good every day. Today I have toys on my desk, too! I started working for the DOE as a kitchen worker, and five years ago I became a secretary. I’ve always loved helping people. Now I help my principal make sure everything runs smoothly.

How would the staff at your school describe you?

They call me “the Gate” because everything flows through me. I’m a bubbly person, a people person. With teachers, I’m open — they always come talk to me. Sometimes they have 1,001 questions at once: Where’s my missed prep? How do I make a copy? Sometimes they may want to see their personnel file, or they come to tell me they’re going to be out and I have to get a sub. Sometimes they just need a hug, because they have feelings, too.

When parents register their children for school, you’re the first person they speak to. What kind of impression do you try to make?

I wouldn’t want my child to come to a school where the staff is not welcoming, so I try to make everyone feel welcome. Registration is by appointment only, so I schedule time with each parent to come in. I make a complete welcome package in a folder for every incoming student. It tells them exactly what they need to bring, like immunization records. Once I get the documents, I make copies and give them back to the parents. With students, I’m in the hallways saying, “Good morning! I love your hair!” Students love compliments.

How do you keep yourself organized?

I do the payroll for 80 staff members at our school, and in the afternoons I work for another school and do payroll for their 250 staff members. So to organize myself, everything is color-coordinated. I like rainbow colors. My orange binder is for students’ ATS records. Red is for when you’re in the hot seat — and nobody likes to be in the hot seat. My yellow binder is for teachers, because they bring the sunshine to a school.

How do you arrange for substitutes when teachers are out?

I’m at school by 6:50 a.m. even though school doesn’t start until 8 a.m. to make sure we have coverage when staff call out sick. I use SubCentral to arrange for subs, but I also have contact information in my personal phone because I have that relationship with certain people. I’m very welcoming. Throughout the day, I’ll ask a sub, “How’s your day going so far? Can I assist you with anything?” I’ll say, “I hope you’ll come back tomorrow if we need you!”

What other tasks are you responsible for?

I help my principal with administrative tasks — scheduling meetings for her, typing up letters. She has a lot of stuff going on, so I want to make sure it’s smooth sailing. I also do the purchasing for the whole school at the beginning and the end of the year. I like to have contact with the vendors, so when we needed new tables and chairs for students, I asked the vendor for a quote and then submitted the purchase order online.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

I used to see this person riding the train who said motivational quotes like, “You’re here for a purpose; make a change in someone’s life.” Well, that’s me all the time. I want to put a smile on someone’s face because you never know what people are going through. I feel great inside knowing I made a difference in someone’s day.

— As told to reporter Rachel Nobel