MONMOUTH — The workplace has evolved since Pat Amero first became a school secretary at Monmouth Academy in the 1960s.

After seven years in the school’s main office, she took a break when she and her husband had two kids. Before giving birth to their older son, a trustee of the school strongly suggested she had to stop working when it became obvious that she was pregnant.

Yet she returned to work a couple years later, when her sons got a little older. Now it’s her husband, Dick, who no longer works, and always buys groceries and serves lunch when she returns home each day. They live less than a mile from the school.

“Times have changed,” said Amero, who, at 76-years-old, is now entering her 50th year on the job.

It’s not just the gender roles that have shifted in Monmouth Academy over the last few decades. The “headmaster” became a “principal.” The high school moved across the street, and its old building became part of the town’s middle school. Amero’s typewriters have mostly been replaced by a web-connected computer.

At least one thing hasn’t changed, though, and it’s what has kept Amero from stepping down after a half-century working with the kids, staff and administrators at Monmouth Academy.

“You have to enjoy what you’re doing,” she said. “I don’t know how you cannot with all these energetic young kids around.

“People are critical of teenagers, but if you get to know them, there’s good in all of them,” Amero added. “If you get to know them, you’d see that many of them are lucky to be here.”

Past and present staff of Monmouth Academy expressed admiration and appreciation for Amero, who has spent most of her career working as the secretary in the school’s counseling office and whose familiarity with the community runs deep.

“She’s just very supportive all the way around,” said Dennis Grover, the school’s former guidance director who worked with Amero for more than 40 years. “A lot of people in life go through their work, punch in, punch out and do it all over again and have no contact in between. But that was a far cry from how she did her business over the years.”

Out of an office that’s lined with flags for various colleges and armed forces, Amero now works between four and five hours a day, assisting the current college and career coordinator, Sarah Knowlton, while also chatting with students and handling a long list of other demands, such as planning graduation. Through the glass window at the front of her office, she can see anyone entering the building.

“She has all the knowledge,” Knowlton said on a recent morning, as students streamed from classroom-to-classroom during a break.

She’s helped raise money for the school’s music programs and worked with students to organize an event for senior citizens on Valentine’s Day. She and her husband also are fixtures at sports games and musical performances.

“If I had counted all the miles Dick and I have logged” going to those events, Amero said, trailing off. “It’s important for students to know someone is watching them.”

At the same time, she’s been a consistent resource for other staff. In the 38 years that Steve Ruman has been working as a custodian at Monmouth Academy, the place has come to feel like a second home, in part because of Amero.

“She’s like a second mother to me,” he said, recalling the times that she and her husband checked on him and shoveled his mailbox out when he was recovering from knee and back surgery.

“They’ll do anything for anybody,” Ruman continued. “You don’t find families like that very often.”

Another measure of Amero’s involvement with the school is the fact that both of her sons, Anthony and Rick, have gone on to become educators. Anthony is the athletic director at Forest Hills School in Jackman, while Rick has remained even closer to home: After teaching and coaching for more than 20 years, he’s now the principal of Monmouth Academy.

Some people ask Amero if she knows so much about the families in the community because Rick Amero has been the principal for the more than 7 years, but she says, “It’s not the family dynamic people think it is.” If anything, she said, her son shares less sensitive information with her than any of his predecessors did.

Amero has considered retiring before, including when the former guidance director, Grover, retired. But she was convinced to keep working, in part because the school allowed her to work shorter days.

Now, she considers the decision “day-by-day,” Amero said. If the school were to install a new computer system, that might make the difference. Until then, she’s savoring it.

“People say to me all the time, when are you going to retire and enjoy life?” she said. “I say, I am enjoying life.”

Whenever it happens, she added, “I will miss the students.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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