WV Service Personnel Employee in Her Own Words

07/20/2012 by Debra Martin

Following is an essay written by Debra Martin upon her selection of WV Service Personnel Employee of the Year.


Sitting in the Buffalo High School gymnasium on June 1, 2012 my husband of 27 years, Bill and I proudly watched our second daughter, Danielle receive her high school diploma.  Something we ourselves did in this very gym 30 years earlier.  An emotional time for every parent but this day brought even more emotion because this was the last graduation ceremony ever to be held at the current Buffalo High School as our community eagerly awaits the opening of a brand new, state-of-the-art school just up the road a mile.  Our family’s tradition runs deep because sitting next to me are my parents and son, Will who all are BHS graduates and my other daughter, Emma who will graduate from the new school in two more years. 

Memories flood back to when Bill and I walked across that same stage, receiving our own diplomas and setting out into the world, giving way to many more graduates who have walked that stage in the years to follow.  At this school, we first met and began dating at the tender age of 15 and it was here that I sat under the instruction of a great business teacher, Dorcas Tavernaris and fell in love with business and clerical type studies that included:  typing, shorthand, dictation, and accounting, embarking into a path that I would stay on my entire career.   I can still see her with her white hair and bright red lipstick as she barked out, “asdfjkl;, asdfjkl;”as my fingers found their place on the old electric typewriter.  Little did I know that I would return to this building as a service employee for Putnam County Schools some 27 years later, serving the students of my alma mater and to be voted as Service Employee of the Year for Putnam County Schools and Service Employee of the Year for the State of West Virginia in 2012. 

I am a proud service employee of Putnam County Schools.  For me, service is more than a job classification.  I believe service is to provide a part of you to the betterment of another.  The Bible says in Acts 20:35, “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  My strong Christian upbringing from my parents has ingrained this into my inner being and I have found that it is true, if you give of yourself without expecting anything in return, you will be truly blessed.  When I initially completed the application for Service Employee of the Year for my school, I was instructed to explain how my service to the school enriched the learning environment of my students.  This caused me to really examine what I did on a daily basis and how it affected all of those I encountered, especially the students. 

In light of this self-examination, I have determined to strive to improve my service to all of those I came in contact with:  students, teachers, administrators, parents, fellow service employees, county employees, and community members.  Being imperfect, I do make mistakes when I get caught up in the stress that comes with the job of being the only full time secretary in a very busy office.  However, these times present the opportunities for me to grow and learn from my failures and to strive to become a better person and employee. 

I do love the students that I serve and since my own children are among those enrolled at Buffalo, my job takes on an even more personal role.  I guard very carefully which of our students come and go from our school grounds and I do not let them leave with anyone unless their parent knows and approves of them leaving.  This sometimes makes me not popular with my students but an event that occurred just after I had begun working at Buffalo High School caused me to understand the tremendous responsibility I have in the safety of our students.  One of our students had a fatal auto accident just a mile from the school.  I had the dreadful duty to inform our superintendent of schools, Chuck Hatfield of the accident.  The first thing he said to me was, “Why was she not in school?”  On that fateful day, she had never arrived at school but that has stuck with me through the years following.  I do not want to have a hand in allowing such a tragic occurrence to ever occur again and I will do everything in my power to prevent such a painful event to occur to another parent or to another student body.  This event gives even more cause to guard the sign out sheet so diligently and before students leave the office to get into their car I always tell them, “Wear your seatbelt and no texting while driving.”    In addition, that event has also taught me is to try to make the best impact on a student every time I have the opportunity. 

I am thankful to great parents who raised me in a Christian home and instilled in me the desire to serve others.  In addition, I am grateful that Putnam County Schools offered business courses when I was a student in 1982 and also for the opportunity to serve my community as secretary at Buffalo High School today.  With a grateful heart I thank my fellow employees at Buffalo High School for giving me a nod of approval for the service I supply on a daily basis to our students.  I am fortunate to work at a great school that has intelligent and dedicated administrators, talented and involved teachers, friendly and skilled service employees, and hardworking, dedicated students.  In addition, I am thankful to Putnam County Schools for allowing me to represent all of the service employees of this county.  It pleases me to serve the staff and students of Buffalo High School and I am humbled and honored to have received the award of Service Personnel of the Year for Putnam County Schools.  To further receive the award of Service Employee of the Year for the State of West Virginia is overwhelming.  My face is one of many who give our all to make our communities and schools the best that we have to offer and I am thrilled to be chosen to represent the service personnel of the State of West Virginia.  Equally important, I am appreciative that the State of West Virginia recognizes service personnel as valuable assets to the educational process.  Finally,  I am grateful that Putnam County Schools has shown our students the importance of their education through its commitment to the students’ well being by providing the services needed and the beautiful state-of-the-art buildings in which to flourish.