DERRY — Luanne Blanchard most likely knows everyone’s name.
That goes for the more than 600 students who call Ernest P. Barka Elementary School home every school day.
The Barka secretary was honored recently with the Horace Mann and the New Hampshire Association of School Principals Secretary/Administrative Assistant Award for 2013. Barka principal Dan LaFleur and assistant principal Stephanie Pike nominated Blanchard for the award.
Blanchard plans to retire at the end of this school year.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “I’ve become friends with so many people and I’ve had the best job ever.”
She began her career in Derry schools 23 years ago, first working at Grinnell Elementary, then moving to West Running Brook Middle School, back to Grinnell and finally moving to the new Barka school in 2005.
Eighteen of those years have been spent working side by side with LaFleur.
“He’s been a wonderful boss,” she said. “I don’t think there’s been a day that he hasn’t said to me, ‘Thank you for everything today.’”
The pair moved together to Grinnell Elementary where both she and Lafleur worked together for eight years. Lafleur then became the first principal of the district’s new Ernest P. Barka Elementary School in 2005.
Blanchard also made the move to Barka.
Working as a long-term team has made for some wonderful moments, Lafleur said. Blanchard will be missed.
“She’s been wonderful to the kids, she takes care of the less fortunate,” he said.
He said she is a strong role model and volunteers time to help fill backpacks for needy children, helps at the local soup kitchen, and organizes events and drives to support needy families in the community.
LaFleur also commended Blanchard for her strong commitment to organizing the annual Daffodil Days event every year to support the American Cancer Society, something near and dear to her heart.
Blanchard was recognized by the Cancer Society for her efforts in fundraising.
“Luanne is an MVP as far as school secretaries go,” LaFleur said.
For Blanchard, it’s all about appreciating her work, enjoying those she shares time with and helping others.
“I’ve always loved what I’ve done,” she said. “I have no complaints. The district has been wonderful and it’s been a great place to work.”
Blanchard hopes to spend more time with her grandson, and also looks forward to traveling and enjoying her kayak near her lakeside home. She also hopes to begin volunteering more with hospice work. But, she said, she will miss her Barka family.
“It’s my time to give back,” she said. “And when you make wonderful friends, they stay with you forever.”