One of the friendliest faces at ASES
By Sue Tiffin
Published March 8, 2018
The following is the first in a series about familiar faces who live, work and play in Minden.
Michelle Allore doesn’t skip a beat when asked to tell her life story in a short amount of time.
“Easy peasy,” she laughs.
It’s with that same “can-do” attitude that she keeps track of more than 400 students, and their parents and teachers, on a daily basis as a secretary in the busy but welcoming front office of Archie Stouffer Elementary School (ASES).
“We are master multi-taskers, truly,” she says of the work she and colleague Sue Culbert do. “Because I can be in the middle of a ginormous deposit or writing cheques, and then you drop everything if someone needs a Band-Aid, needs their juice box opened, their shoe tied, the walkie talkie is going... it’s constantly stop and start work. It is a miracle really that things get done properly and on time.”
But things do get done, and that’s in part because this is a job Allore has wanted to do for as long as she can remember. She grew up in Minden and went to ASES as a student herself, before attending Haliburton Highlands Secondary School.
“I just wanted to be an organizer and a take carer-type person, and [secretary] just seemed like a good fit, because that’s what I excelled at in high school, those short hand classes and typing classes. That was kind of...it just seemed to be the right fit.“
At the end of her high school career, Dale Robinson and Gary Brohman gave her special permission to write exams early so that she could attend a year-long word processing specialist program that started in mid-June at Shaw’s Business College in Toronto.
Within that program, she took shorthand and dictation, and also a class called “telephone technique,” which might account for her friendly and patient telephone voice today regardless of how hectic her day has been. Unlike at most colleges with jean and sweater-clad students, Michelle says she was required to dress professionally in skirts and pantsuits to attend classes.
“You were dressed for business right from the get-go,” she says.
After school, she worked at the Royal Bank in downtown Toronto, and after starting a family with high school sweetheart Terry Allore, who had joined the police force, she found herself in Chelmsford, a tiny town outside of Sudbury. It didn’t matter if she was in Toronto for just a year, or Chelmsford for four, Michelle found herself returning to Minden often on weekends due to being homesick. It wasn’t until the Allores moved to Wawa that Michelle stopped coming home to Minden so often.
“The distance was a factor because it was quite a drive, but more importantly, I just kind of came into my own there,” she says.
She worked as a secretary for Children’s Aid in Wawa for five years, before she could be rid of the homesickness altogether after a move back to Minden. Here she worked at a local accounting office until she was hired by the school board in 2000 and began her school office career at HHSS.
“I really enjoyed the students, the kids,” she says. “I just liked being a steady person for them in the office. The other secretaries and I, you’re just kind of the constant person who’s there all the time.”
About two years later, she became the constant and steady friendly face at the front desk of ASES.
“I have a four-minute commute and if the deer or turkeys get in my way, it’s five minutes,” she laughs.
Her role has changed as technology has developed – now bank deposits can be done online, and she no longer takes dictation or even really types very much anymore. But her closeness with the student body has remained the same.
“I try to make it a priority to know every kid’s name,” she said. “I like to speak to them by name, and I insist that they call me Michelle. It’s nice that we’re their constant. Their safe place. The office is a very warm and happy spot, I mean, sure, some that have made not a great decision in the day, they have to hang out in the office, but it’s really not a bad place to be. We try for it to not be a negative experience either. We like the office to be welcoming and warm even if they’ve made a wrong turn.”
Parents whose kids have attended the school will vouch for Michelle’s tendency to go above and beyond in the role, even driving to Foodland to reach a parent she thought might be shopping for groceries.
“When my alarm, well, I hardly ever need an alarm, but every morning, and I’m not exaggerating, I don’t wake up and think, ‘oh I have to go to work,’” she says. “I think, ‘oh, I’m getting up, I’m getting ready, I’m going to go to school. It’s never a burden to me. It doesn’t feel like work to me. I really enjoy it. A lot.”
Michelle said her parents instilled a strong work ethic in both her and her brother, and so she is happy to work until her job is done.
“It doesn’t matter that my day is done at 3:30,” she says. “To me, my day is done when I feel satisfied and happy and organized enough that I can go home and enjoy my evening.”
She said that when she “grows up,” she wants to be like some of the remarkable community residents who volunteer with the breakfast club or as a reader to students, even into their 80s.
“I truly cherish the amount of volunteers that make our building a part of their weekly life,” she says. “It amazes me, and many of these volunteers, they work [too], and I find it very admirable that they do include our school in their weekly life.”
The students have impacted her life, as well. She delights in meeting new kindergarten students and their families as they register for their school life, and gives advice to those graduating on their way to high school to get involved in their school. Though she’s more excited than emotional to see them moving on, she finds she mistakenly keeps them around a bit by calling their younger siblings by their name.
“I’m also getting to be that special age where the circle is coming around,” she said. “Kids that my kids have grown up with, now they’re attending school with their own children, bringing their kids to school. How did this happen?”
She is multi-tasking even during her interview, making sure things continue running, people remain cared for, tasks get done. She laughs that if others want to be as organized, they might consider going to secretarial school to learn the ins and outs of telephone technique, but also says that she has a belief that she tries to live to each day, passed on to her from a retired principal.
“‘When people tell you that you can’t please everybody, don’t believe them. It’s nearly always completely possible if you try hard enough,’” she recites. “To me, I actually, I truly believe that, I believe that you can please everyone if you care enough. And you just aspire to do that, as best you can, and I really think that it’ll happen.”