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Celebrating Education Support Professionals during American Education Week – Friday, November 17, 2017

Diane OgdenPhoto of students and staff


“You know the saying ‘they'd give you the shirt off their back?’” begins teaching assistant Joanne Truchon. “Well, Diane takes it a step further.”

She’s describing Big Cross Elementary’s attendance clerk, Diane Ogden—although the job title barely scratches the surface of what Mrs. Ogden does every day, and how deeply she has touched students and families over her past 19 years with Glens Falls City Schools.

“She is the person you wish your child gets to be with if ever he or she needs anything out of the ordinary during the school day, because she is NOT your ordinary school employee,” says colleague Robin Rose-Jenkins.

“I’ve known her to donate bikes, clothes, a washer and dryer when we’ve had families in need,” chimes in teacher Sue Williams. “She makes sure every child feels special; whether it's bringing them their favorite fresh veggies with dip or just a hug when they need it,” echoes Ms. Truchon. “She is very in tune with the needs of the children.”

photo of staff and students"Diane has built an excellent rapport with the Big Cross community that she sees and speaks to each day as our attendance clerk," says Big Cross Principal Debbie Hall. "Diane always greets those that come to the office with a smile and a sincere 'how are you doing today!' She goes above and beyond to assist a family in need or to lend a listening ear."

From her humble perch in the corner of the school’s main office, her easy smile and inquisitive eyes are impossible to miss—even through thick safety glass, or over a small crowd of students and adults bustling through with deliveries and requests.

“I truly am the ‘face’ of Big Cross Street School, as my little box is the only place you can get to from the outside world, so I am the only face you initially see,” Mrs. Ogden says, describing the locked foyer entrance for any visitor to the building. “Depending on what your needs are, I may be the only one you see,” she continues. “Because of this, I have established a rapport with most families and students. I think it is important for everyone to feel comfortable here.”

Mrs. Ogden’s humility belies her deep connections and genuine concern for kids and their families. “I don’t think there is a family she doesn’t know,” notes a colleague. “She can usually tell you their address and the family tree.”

“I just love people and I love to talk,” laughs Mrs. Ogden. “What better job is there?”

She worked as a one-on-one aide for five years and then got hired as an attendance clerk, even taking a civil service exam for the position. “That sounds kind of funny to me, as attendance is only a small part of my day,” she says.

“I try to relay the importance of timeliness and good attendance. I feel that if good attendance is established at the elementary level, coming to school will be easier by the time they reach High School, where attendance is required for meeting graduation requirements. If the children know the office is a friendly, supportive environment, they will want to come to school, even if they are late, and the OZ has to push a button to let them in!!”

Mrs. Ogden says her position changed dramatically when schools began locking their doors—a far cry from her own days as a student at Big Cross from kindergarten through sixth grade. “Life was simpler,” she says. “I gave the crossing guard a great big morning hug, and even walked home for lunch!”

“Security really is a very important duty now, protecting the safety of our children,” she says. “It’s not only knowing how to react to an emergency situation, but also handling custody issues, pick-ups, and the like. You just can't make that mistake with someone’s kids. Ever. So often times I ask for drivers licenses, and ask whatever questions I feel I need to. Sometimes you just get a ‘feeling’ on things. It's hard to explain. But it's very important to dot my I's and cross my T's with everyone that approaches my window.”

And that sentiment goes for every one, or every thing that shows up at her window. “I was teaching a unit on pigs and asked my brother to bring in one of my niece’s potbelly pigs to show my students,” recounts Mrs. Williams. “He came into school with it wrapped in a blanket like a baby and he told Diane he had the pig for me. She had to call up to my room and announce over the intercom that my pig was here. She thought that was the funniest thing, and we still laugh about it.”

“School has become much more important in family lives, and I hope I help facilitate the link that is now needed for these children,” the GFHS and Skidmore College graduate says. Her daughter, Andrea, is an algebra teacher in Syracuse. Visits there, and walks with her “number one son,” Higgins Ogden, the yellow Labrador retriever, take up much of Mrs. Ogden’s outside interests.

“I try to treat all kids as they were my own,” Mrs. Ogden notes. “And I've been told kids feel that love.”