Paula DeMarco: The Swiss Army Knife of Aides

Whether Ms. M is writing you a pass or Paula is leading a strict but fair study hall, there’s no doubt about it: the aides at RHS keep us all on our toes. 

But sadly I feel as a district we do not give them enough credit.

Not only do they get the job done, making sure everyone is safe, but they also befriend us in the process. These pass-wielding superheroes supervise up to 40 kids at a time.

Mrs. M keeps the cafeteria in check, Paula runs the tightest study hall around, Ms. Lehan always has an interesting fact to share, and Larry never fails to say something positive to brighten our days. I don’t know what Rhinebeck would do without them. 

In an effort to learn more about the aids here at RHS, I interviewed Paula in the library. 

To Paula, Rhinebeck High School is home. She’s worked here for 25 years, and her two children graduated from Rhinebeck. Unlike a lot of Rhinebeck’s staff, Paula did not attend Rhinebeck Highschool. In fact, she went to Roy C Ketcham Highschool in Wappingers, and she enjoyed her high school experience very much. During the interview, she looked back fondly on one of her best high school memories: learning to drive and no longer having to take the bus to school – something most of us can relate to. 

After high school, Paula aspired to become a pilot. She was fascinated by air travel, especially how pilots managed to land the planes after being thousands of feet above the ground. Although Paula didn’t choose to pursue this career, she has no regrets because she ended up having two wonderful children. 

While her children, now 32 and 34, have now moved on to work in Brooklyn and LA, Paula stayed in Rhinebeck. 

At RHS Paula is the Swiss Army knife of aides: a study hall teacher, a cafeteria supervisor, a substitute for absent colleagues. She truly has one of the most important jobs here.

When I asked her how she keeps such a behaved study hall, she said she tells her kids they can either behave and stay in the classroom or misbehave and stay in the principal’s office.

Paula’s supervising style is tough but kind. She recognizes that every child has a uniqueness or skill, and sometimes you just have to find it. Her favorite part of the job is the kids, their smiles, and the feeling of family at RHS. 

Paula wants her students to see her as someone you can trust. 

Of course, not every day at RHS is perfect. There are good days and bad days, though the good far outweigh the bad.

On one of Paula’s worst bad days, a student called her a disrespectful name. But the student did manage to come by at a later date to apologize. 

One of the hardest parts of the job is when Paula has to say goodbye to the kids she has watched grow up before her eyes. From the day they walk in freshman year to the day they leave senior year, high school is a crazy rollercoaster ride, and she is there the whole time – through all the winding twists and turns, the exciting summits and disappointing slumps, the good days and the bad.

There are many kids who come through the doors of Paula’s study hall, and she said it is truly amazing to watch them become young women and men. 

Before our interview came to an end, I jotted down a few fast facts about Paula: 

  • Paula’s favorite artist is Andy Warhol, a modern expressionist. She especially loves when he paints with blue; it’s her favorite color. 
  • The beach is very important to her. Whenever she can get away to the beach, it is a good day. 
  • She has no pets. Sadly, she lost her 20 year old cat last year. 
  • Paula loves drinking coffee in the morning and herbal tea at night. 
  • She doesn’t like ice cream. Instead, she eats all-natural ice pops. 
  • Paula is fond of cooking but not so fond of baking. 
  • On Sundays Paula gets together for dinner with her family.
  • If she had to eat one meal for the rest of her life, she would have to go with pasta and salad. 

Getting to know Paula helped me better appreciate her critical role at RHS. I hope from now on we can show more respect to the people who keep Rhinebeck High School from becoming a zoo. 

The next time Paula writes you a pass or Larry smiles at you in the hallway or Ms. M doles out a hearty shhh, consider thanking them for their hard work.