Peacham’s school community and employees are in good hands, thanks to Shirley Ryan’s dedication and organizational expertise. Ryan, the school’s administrative assistant and one of VEHI PATH’s building leaders is the first person who greets everyone as they enter the school. And she isn’t alone in doing so; her golden retriever puppy, Peaches, is right next to her, either in her crate or snuggled on the floor beside Ryan’s desk. According to VEHI PATH’s Caledonia Central’s champion, Vanessa Koch, Shirley is an inspiration to all of her coworkers. “Year after year 100 percent of Peacham’s employees participate in the VEHI PATH programs. She organizes four building wellness events annually and shares her original ideas with the other building wellness leaders. She is a proactive and contributing member of our team.”
Ryan’s world turned upside down a year ago when her husband of many years passed away after a brief but serious illness. “The local community really pitched in,” said Ryan. “Families brought meals to our home and commissioned the making of a quilt for my husband.” And that wasn’t all. The community raised the funds necessary to purchase a golden retriever puppy for her. “It was like a Hallmark movie in real life. The gifting of the puppy brought joy back into my life, “she said. “It was a big surprise. The students presented me with the puppy’s certificate.”
Previous to moving to Vermont, Ryan served for years as an Operations Manager for Fed Ex in Florida. “Though I wasn’t considering working again after a bit I decided it might be time. I didn’t even know where the school was when I applied for the position,” she said laughing.
“After I was hired, the principal mentioned that I would also serve as the building’s wellness leader,” she said. “I was totally mystified. I had no idea what that meant and after attending my first wellness leader training, I still had multiple questions.” Regardless, she jumped in and along the way, figured out VEHI PATH’s programs. “Last year I offered yoga and core strength training classes for the staff and this year I set up an overnight oats and Mason jar salad events, she said. “This is a feat in and of itself, because several of the employees are part-time meaning anything I offer takes place throughout the week. “I put together the overnight oats and stored them in coolers in the principal’s office covering them with snow to keep everything cold.”
“Shirley takes time to offer personalized attention to each of her colleagues and her compassion for everyone is obvious,” said Koch. “She recognizes her coworkers in many ways and on teacher and principal appreciation days she goes classroom to classroom with beverages and home baked goodies and occasionally flowers. She organizes substitutes, makes sure the students are where they are supposed to be and takes the time to recognize the importance of wellness for all.”
“I check the local papers and post articles that are important to the school community and I put together the yearbook, “Ryan said. “Lots of what I focus on is about self-esteem and morale to help everyone get through the day.” Ryan is also a big fan of the school’s principal, Ashley Gray. “She is totally supportive of wellness. “This school is the true center of the community and the residents are proud of the education the students obtain here.”
Outside of the workplace, Ryan lives on and maintains several acres of land, which her golden retriever will soon revel in exploring. “I like a big buffer around me,” she said smiling.