By Theresa Ekdom

ROSCOMMON – Entering the Roscommon Elementary School (RES), the first thing you are likely to see is the smiling face of Maria Sinnaeve. She has been the secretary at the office for the last seven or eight years.

That will change at the end of the month when she retires. It is a move no one was expecting.

“This school is my heart and soul,” Maria said. “It was a very tough decision.”

She and her husband John had been looking for a place in Florida. They had discussed Maria’s retirement, but hadn’t set a date. When they found a house, it was time to make a decision.

“When John threatened to go to Florida without me, I knew it was time,” Maria laughed. “It was a quick decision. It’s been a lot of tears, it’s been a lot of smiles.”

The tears and the smiles are evident on the students’ faces. They come into the office with drawings and notes, or with small gifts. Maria calls them each by name. She knows their family, and has had some of the parents as students also.

Maria was hired at RES in 1997 as a para-pro. She also worked in the computer lab and as a clerk with Cathy Jasper. When Jasper retired, Sinnaeve applied for the secretary job. She has worked with five different principals.

“I never thought my 2 ½ hour job would turn into a full time job,” Sinnaeve said. “I had been a stay at home mom.”

John and Maria have two children, a son, Josh, in Chicago and a daughter, Mandy, who lives in Texas.

But Maria also has a school full of other children.

“Once you drop your kid off at school, they are our kids,” she said. “That’s what kept me coming back – the kids.”

The kids are Maria’s favorite memories of her years at the school. Not any particular student, but all of them.

“The hugs, every morning I get my hugs.”

She is also there to take temperatures, call parents if needed, and collect the forgotten backpacks and lunches that are brought in.

Nicole Grace has a first grader at RES.

“Just knowing that you know my child, and that they are safe here with you,” Nicole said to Maria. “You were the first person to greet us when we came here.”

Maria will take some time, she and her husband will go away somewhere warm for the winter. They will be back in the spring for John to coach soccer.

“I’m going to miss the people,” Maria said.

“It’s been a good way to spend the last 20 plus years.”