In Allegany County, a central office receptionist finds the heart of education in the bonds of her community.
Despite the challenges and obstacles we face, our goal is to ensure that our students have the best academic experience possible — but we’re also looking after our own as a family, doing what’s right, and paying it forward. — Lisa Nealis
My 20-year journey in education began in 1997 as a single mother of two young children looking for a job. I started out as a contract employee first in personnel, then in the superintendent’s office, and finally at the front desk of our beautiful location in the historic district in Cumberland.
In the years since my journey began, I’ve seen firsthand that educators have special concern not only for students, but also for each other. When it came time for me to interview for a regular full-time position with Allegany County Public Schools, I didn’t feel I had the right professional outfit to wear. A staff member lent me a suit and I got the job. This was the first of many acts of kindness I have experienced. Getting the job meant a full-time position, weekends off, and health benefits for my family.
I like to reflect on the positive because that’s how it began for me. Every year, I see the same woman who brings in a large bag of clothing for our students. I’ve seen people bring winter coats, book bags, and school supplies. When a teacher and his family suffered a house fire before Christmas, the school system and our community helped them get back on their feet and gave their small children a merry Christmas despite their loss. Most recently we’ve come together with fund raisers to help a staff member whose daughter has an incurable disease.
Education isn’t the only thing going on in Allegany County schools. Despite the challenges and obstacles we face, our goal is to ensure that our students have the best academic experience possible — but we’re also looking after our own as a family, doing what’s right, and paying it forward.
Next time you’re in Western Maryland, stop by 108 Washington Street and take in the beauty of our 160 year-old building and say hi. After all, we’re family.