GOESSEL — Denise Nickel has greeted the children and adults who have come into Goessel Elementary School since 1994. After a quarter of a century, Nickel is retiring as the office professional at the school — and she is only the second person to work in that position.
"I enjoy communicating with the parents, teachers and students," Nickel said. "It's a real relationship job. I pretty much know everybody in the community if they have children in the school system."
Goessel Elementary's first office professional was Elsie Schmidt, who worked there 35 years. Nickel said she remembers Schmidt for her kind spirit when she attended the school.
"When I was a young girl, I remember thinking, 'oh, Miss Elsie is so great, I think I'd like to be her someday,'" Nickel said.
After graduating, getting married and moving to South Dakota, Nickel and her husband decided to come back to Kansas to raise their children. Nickel worked at Hesston College for two years, then the job at Goessel Elementary became open and she jumped at the chance to work at her dream job.
"I applied and it's been a good fit ever since," Nickel said.
Since her children were elementary age at the time, working at the school made scheduling easier for the family, but there were sacrifices involved for Nickel.
"I haven't really had lunch with friends in 25 years unless I can sneak it in during spring break or the summer," Nickel said.
Working in a school office is a job that involves more than some may realize.
"I'm a one-person office, so I do everything," Nickel said. "...We don't have a school nurse, so I do the band-aids and cough drops and things like that."
Besides greeting visitors, Nickel handles enrollment, state reports, attendance and lunch counts.
"There are some days when I start with something on my desk in the morning and end with it still there in the afternoon because it's just a busy day," Nickel said.
Still, Nickel made sure to have fun at her job.
"I always dress up for spirit days and Halloween," Nickel said. "I've been a gypsy, farmer and volleyball player. I think it's important for the kids to see you as yourself and to be funny. I try to keep a smile on my face and I have a real warm heart for the kids."
Nickel said she stayed at Goessel Elementary after her children grew up because she likes to see new children come to and through the school.
"We started preschool a few years ago, so we're having new 3- and 4-year-olds as well as new kindergarteners and other new families coming into the school," Nickel said. "You enroll them and then you've got to see them through fifth grade."
After 25 years, Nickel has some students who are children of students in the early years of her career.
"Every once in a while, you think, 'hmm, they're acting just like their parents (did).' It's usually good, but every now and then you see a little mischievous streak," Nickel said.
Nickel plans to retire to spend more time with her grandchildren, her garden and her bike.
"I look forward to that extra cup of coffee on the deck," Nickel said.
John Fast, principal at Goessel Elementary School, said Nickel's demeanor gives newcomers a great impression of USD 411.
"(Nickel) is the epitome of someone who has a strong, caring heart," Fast said. "(She) works so hard for our kids and has a close relationship with parents, teachers and staff. She goes the extra mile for everybody. She does a great job and she'll be deeply missed."