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Goodbye to Bo


Willamette Primary secretary Bo Hansen moves on after 22 years

The front office at Willamette Primary School will look a little different when students return from spring break.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Bo Hansen says that she has enjoyed every minute of the more than two decades she has spent working with the staff and students at Willamette.After 22 years at the school, secretary Bo Hansen is moving on. She accepted a job in the district’s human resources department, and Friday will be her last day at Willamette.

“It was not an easy decision to make. I thought long and hard,” Hansen said. “Like we ask our students to try to do their very best, I thought I would try something new. I have a lot to learn. I’m also excited about that part of it.”

Hansen’s roots in the Willamette community stretch so deep that she is likely to continue her connection with the school. Already, she is committed to returning to see the fifth-graders graduate — to “see them through,” she said.

“The students are amazing, and their families. And the staff. I will still fill my kid bucket. ... I would love if they could come and visit me and show some of their amazing work. So we can keep in perspective why we are all here. It’s the kids and their growth.”

Hansen, 60, was born and raised in Denmark.

“I came here right after college,” she said. It was 1975 and her husband had a new job in Oregon. She had a degree in early childhood education.

“I’ve always been in education, just not in a classroom,” she said.

She passed her interest in education to both her daughters. One is a teacher in Salem and the other lives and teaches in Chicago.

One of her favorite things about having worked at Willamette for so long is how she has been able to watch young families grow. She has seen many a pregnant mother who in time enrolls that baby in kindergarten, and she has enjoyed seeing those children graduate from the fifth grade. A lot of time, they stay in touch.

“Having kids from college come back to say ‘hi’ to you? That’s what it’s all about,” she said.

She said that she is almost always able to remember the former students who return to tour their old school.

“A lot of times I remember a first name or a last name,” she said. “Kids change a lot from elementary school. But there’s always a smile that’s the same, or the eyes.”

Second only to the children and families she serves is the staff she works alongside.

“It’s like we’re a family. I have always referred to Willamette as my second family,” she said. “We live in such an amazing community that’s so supportive of what we do.”

That support system has buoyed Hansen through some of the toughest times of her life, including her husband’s death. Hansen herself was fighting breast cancer at the same time.

“The support I had at that time was amazing,” she said. “I could not have done it without the support of the community and the staff here at Willamette. It was amazing. The support that I got was so healing and so helpful.”

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - After 22 years at Willamette Primary School, Bo Hansen will work her last day there March 21.Hansen began working at Willamette two years after the school switched from being a middle school and became the primary school it is today. In all that time, she has worked with only two principals, Katie McCarney and David Pryor, who started at Willamette as a student teacher the same year Hansen began working at the school.

After all those years, it’s only natural to think that she might have a few complaints. She doesn’t.

“In all honesty, I have never, ever gotten up in the morning and said, ‘Oh, no, I have to go to work.’ I love being here with the kids,” she said. “It’s a great job. I’ve loved every minute of what I’m doing. Each day is so different.”

When pressed, she did come up with one on-the-job irritation.

“I do have a squeaky chair that tips to the side once in a while,” she said. “That’s not even a problem, in the scheme of things.”

She is excited for the new challenges and opportunities her new position will bring, and her attitude toward the job is unlikely to change.

“If you are someplace for eight-plus hours a day, it has to be pleasant, joyful, meaningful,” she said. “I’m thankful I’ve been able to serve for so long in the community.”

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
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