Harvest Park Middle School's administrative secretary Pauline Schroeder has been named the district's 2016 Classified Employee of the Year.
She has proven an invaluable captain, even during years when the ship was rocked by changes in curriculum or leadership, district leaders said.
Schroeder didn't dream of running a school when she got her first job. In fact, she didn't imagine a career in education at all, but life had other plans.
In an announcement at a school board meeting earlier this year, interim superintendent Jim Hansen said Schroeder "is the glue that holds the school together."
"I love my job," she said. "It's a fun place to work. I've got good people in the office, and the teachers are just terrific."
Harvest Park has been through its share of upheaval during the past few years. This school year, the school has had three principals, and a permanent principal has yet to be named.
"It's been a whole challenge this year, just trying to keep everything on track," said Schroeder, 51. "But they're terrific people. Both (principals) of them work very hard and are very accommodating, very approachable and also just very willing to say, 'How is Harvest Park working? And you tell me what we need to do.' They've been fantastic."
However, change is nothing new to Schroeder. She joined Harvest Park in the aftermath of the recent recession, has seen the school through the Common Core transition and has assisted five principals since 2007.
"We are, I'm not going to lie, looking forward to having more stability," she said, laughing. "It's not just our school. There are a lot of changes happening throughout the district. ... We'll just step up to the plate and do what we have to do to keep our community going the way that works so well for all of us."
Harvest Park currently has two temporary principals -- Amy Theberge and Steve Maher -- after former principal Jill Butler took a job as Pleasanton Middle School's principal. The move came after district-level openings led to a spate of promotions.
Raised in Southern California, Schroeder earned an associate's degree in animal health technology before working at a veterinary hospital for nine years.
"I worked with the four-legged creatures, and now I'm with the two-legged creatures," she joked.
When her two children were born -- now 24 and 21 -- while the family was living in Hawaii, Schroeder became a full-time mom. She said they moved to Pleasanton when her children were school-age so they could attend Pleasanton schools.
She was a highly involved parent and volunteered as often as she could. When her younger child entered kindergarten, Schroeder decided to work part-time in the district as a campus supervisor, moving on to take on multiple roles as a substitute.
She became Harvest Park's administrative secretary in September 2007, opting for the full-time role to help supplement her family's income when her husband was laid off during the start of the recession. By that time, she said she had volunteered or worked in at least a dozen areas of the district.
Since then, she said she's felt like she's been the conductor of a well-designed train. Her job includes managing administrators' schedules, making sure sick teachers' classes are covered, planning the school calendar, scheduling assessment appointments and many other tasks. If someone at Harvest Park has an administrative problem, she's the go-to person.
"My desk is kind of the hub," she said.
It's been a rewarding job, and she said she looks forward to going to work every day. Just knowing that she's helping improve children's education makes any hurdle worthwhile, and she said the teachers and staff are more than just casual coworkers in her eyes.
"I have a fabulous staff here," she said. "We're like one big, happy family."
She lives in Pleasanton with her husband, Bob.