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Secretary’s ‘giving nature’ highlighted on 40th anniversary

Mae Ivany is a familiar face throughout the Exploits Valley due to her decades of work with children. When she is not volunteering with the Children’s Wish Foundation, she is working as a secretary, a job she has been doing for 40 years.
Mae Ivany is a familiar face throughout the Exploits Valley due to her decades of work with children. When she is not volunteering with the Children’s Wish Foundation, she is working as a secretary, a job she has been doing for 40 years.

GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL-Forest Park Primary went purple on Thursday to celebrate one of their own — Mae Ivany’s 40th anniversary as a school secretary.

There were purple (her favourite colour) balloons, flowers, as well as cards and gifts from students and staff, that brought tears to her eyes throughout the day, not to mention the hundreds of likes and comments the school got on a Facebook post about her special day.

Ivany said she has so many special memories over the years she couldn’t possibly choose a favourite, however, she knew what her favourite part of the job is.

“Seeing the children every day,” she said. “While I’ve loved everywhere I worked, now that I’m older I love the Kindergarten to Grade 3 age. It’s like having 300 grandchildren.”

Ivany also enjoys the fact that every day can be different. It's not a routine office job and sometimes what you plan to do on any given day doesn't get done, but there are so many other wonderful things happening.

Ivany began her career on Jan. 5, 1977, at the St. Alban’s building of the Windsor Integrated School System, using a manual typewriter, one of the changes she has seen in her four decades in the school system.

There were also no busses, so no snow days, and no allergies in schools.

Throughout the years, Ivany has seen many students, in many schools. She worked at Windsor Academy, the school board district office, Exploits Valley High – Maple (Grades 11 and 12), Exploits Valley Intermediate – Maple building (Grade 9), Sprucewood Academy, and since September, in Forest Park Primary, taking time off between 1983 and 1986 when her three sons were born.

Ivany said she has stayed so long because it’s an awesome job.

“It’s great to be able to tell children that I was their mom’s or dad’s secretary too,” she said. They think it’s so cool that they share that with their parent. When the time comes that there's a grandparent at school, who I'd been the secretary for, perhaps it will be time to retire.”

One of those parents is also a teacher this year at Forest Park Primary.

Heather Hayley first met Ivany as a student of Windsor Academy. She was in the fifth grade when her family moved from Ontario and she didn't know any of the children in the school.

“Mrs. Ivany certainly made me feel welcome as she has done for countless other children over the years,” Hayley said. “Mae really is the heart of our school. There are so many wonderful, kind and caring things she does each day. From taking care of our breakfast program and making sure there are extra snacks around, passing out band aids for boo-boos, making sure there are extra mittens and hats on hand for the little ones who may have lost or forgotten them, she truly goes above and beyond the role of secretary.”

Hayley said she had the pleasure of working with Ivany on the Safe and Caring Schools Club at Sprucewood Academy last year, where they met weekly with a group of children during lunch hour to do small service projects, such as collecting food for the food bank, planning events for bullying awareness, packing Christmas shoeboxes, and raising money to support a refugee family.

“This is the kind of person Mae is, always doing something to help those less fortunate, perhaps that's why she is always smiling,” Hayley said.

“We were both so happy to be returning to our ‘old school’ this year. Most of what I love about our school starts with her. I hope when I reach my 40 years of service my smile is as big and my heart is as full as Mrs. Ivany's.”

Jane Schamper, a teacher at Forest Park Primary, also first met Ivany at Windsor Academy, in 1996, when she was in a replacement position.

“She was extremely amiable, kind and welcoming,” Schamper said.

In 2008 she was overjoyed to learn that Ivany would be joining the staff at Sprucewood Academy where she had been teaching since 1998.

“When we reconnected it felt as if no time had passed at all but that is not surprising when it comes to Mae,” Schamper said.

Last spring both Ivany and Schamper were notified they would be moving to the building that was formerly Windsor Academy, and is now Forest Park Primary, this fall.

“When I asked her how she felt about this return she replied, ‘It’s like going home,’” Schamper said.

Schamper said she will not even attempt to list the vast number of tasks Ivany performs on a daily basis that ensures the efficient running of their school.

“As secretary, our school could not operate without Mae,” she said. “This is an enormous feat within itself but Mae is much more than our secretary. Whether she is selflessly volunteering her time with the breakfast program, fundraisers and organizations such as The Children’s Wish Foundation, or just offering a Band-Aid and hug to a hurt student, she is always giving of herself.” 

Schamper said last year during one of their many chats in her office, they broached the subject of her upcoming 40th anniversary of working as a school secretary.

“After sharing with her what a truly incredible and inspiring accomplishment this was, I then asked if she felt she was ready to consider retiring and without hesitation she replied, ‘But Jane, I love what I do!’” Schamper said.

“I am honoured and blessed to still be working with Mae and to call her my friend for the last several years. I congratulate her on her 40th anniversary and wish her love, joy and happiness now and in the years to come!”




A tribute in poem

This poem was written by Barbara Budgell, a teacher at the school Mae Ivany was secretary of, around 1980, for 'secretary's day', as it was called then.


In the office of Windsor Integrated,

With a typewriter on her table,

Sits a woman with a smiling face,

Who’s capable and able.


No task for her too big to tackle,

None too small to cast aside,

Whatever job is passed her way,

She handles it all with pride.


She types the letters that we send home,

And also our tests and our worksheets,

She loves looking after our canteen supplies,

Because then she can count the long treats.


She’s even our postman, our banker, too,

And the coffee is always on,

To staff and students she is a friend,

She even shares her office with Don.


Since she’s come to our school, things smoothly have run,

By a cool, calm, sensible head,

We know that she’s there to handle our needs,

And she’s missed if she’s home sick in bed.


No way in the world we could do without her,

Sure she even gives out our pay,

So I’d like you all to please applaud,

Our great secretary, Mae.

On Jan. 5, 1977, Mae Brown, now May Ivany, began working as a school secretary. Forty years later, she is still a school secretary, and still loves her job each and every day.

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