On to Next Adventures: A Commemoration Article for Mrs. Olsen

Katherine Schiraldi

If you have ever taken a trip to the Main Computer Lab, you have most likely seen Mrs. Susy Olsen. Bright and energetic, Mrs. Olsen is almost always available to lend a hand with any technological problem you may encounter. Although her title is ‘Technology Paraprofessional”, Mrs. Olsen has done much more than what meets the eye. During her 18-year stay at JM, she has not only assisted students and teachers with tech issues but also inspired many with her kind words, welcoming attitude, and lively spirit. She may not be part of the JM roster next year but for many students, teachers, and staff, her presence will be sewed into our memories and will remain a member of the JM community forever.

Mrs. Olsen has done a variety of jobs during her time at JM. Her job description includes supervising students in the computer lab and on occasion, helping teachers develop some new curriculum. When asked about her favorite experiences at JM, Mrs. Olsen replied, “I’ve had a lot of really fun experiences. One thing I used to do years ago was to help the social committee and we would have Coney Island Days.” On Coney Island Days, teachers would sign up to bring various items for food and beverages. The purpose of this event was only based on fun. Usually, it was a fundraiser for somebody in need for our staff.”

Mrs. Olsen has also been a support system for many students in ways that cannot be expressed through words. One of her favorite things about working at JM is working with students. Throughout their journey through high school, Mrs. Olsen has the pleasure to see students mature,“And I’ve been able to, you know, help them through the years and see then grow up, and figure out some goals by the time they’re a high school senior. That’s been really, really important to me, and that’s going to be really hard for me to–that’s going to be the hardest part for me to leave behind.” Keerthi Manikonda, a junior at JM, has had memorable moments with Mrs. Olsen during her time at JM, “When Mrs. Olsen talks, you feel so comfortable around her, and she’s just such a welcoming person that we–it could be a conversation about the weirdest of things, but she just makes the entire moment happy and just amazing.” Keerthi is one of the many students at JM who will be missing Mrs. Olsen dearly in the coming school years.

Mrs. Olsen is passionate about finding personalized learning methods for students who may struggle with traditional styles of learning. Having dyslexia, Mrs. Olsen has truly enjoyed trying to help students who need a different, non-traditional style of learning find their path, “For a person to come to grips with their own challenges and then to be able to look at that as a benefit in life is wonderful. I think differently so I can express differently and explain things differently. Sometimes that’s really what somebody needs. It’s more of a hands-on way of learning that I am better at.”

What is next for Mrs. Olsen? One of her greatest passions is working with teenagers, and whatever she does in the future, she hopes that it will still be related to teens, “Well, we’ll see what happens, I’d love to stay–I would love to continue to work with teenagers. There is a Technology Academy going in at Big Lots. We’ll see. They’re not ready to look at hiring, but then I’d get to work with teenagers and technology. And I’d like to keep my tech skills up. And I just love teenagers!”

Working with teenagers requires nothing short of being a superhero, but it does have its perks, “It has helped me grow as a person, challenged my mind with technology, and helped me connect with, you know, who I was back when. But I think the biggest thing is my willingness to not hold back and to be myself.” Mrs. Olsen wishes for all the people who will be missing her at JM to “be willing to ask questions, as far as the technology piece, and collaborate with your classmates and your teachers, call the help desk, and, you know, google it! Google it would be the big thing!” On a more personal note, Mrs. Olsen encourages student to share how they are feeling with teachers, “Let them know if you felt she was a person you could talk to and if you miss that. If the staff person is maybe a person you can talk to, it might remind them to slow down a little bit.” Mrs. Olsen stresses that as a community “we need to be the smiles, shoulders and listeners to each other.”

Mrs. Olsen has awarded John Marshall with many gifts over the years, with only some being her positivity, supportive words, and encouraging smile. Although her time at JM is coming to a close, the JM community will always see her as a permanent member and deserving of its utmost gratitude for all that she has done. We will continue to relive her words of wisdom and her cheerful and positive attitude (and magnificent whistling) for the many years to come.