Joyce Keller says that while lots of things have changed since she began doling out Band-Aids and hugs as Point Road School’s nurse 22 years ago – like an increase in students’ medical challenges and paperwork – some things remain the same.
“The people in this building are just exceptional,” Keller, whose last day before retirement is Friday, says of her coworkers. “They’re all so helpful and supportive – there’s no competition.”
“I’ll miss the kids and people I work with equally,” she says. “I love the little kids, it’s like working with my grandchildren all day.”
What won’t she miss?
“Lice,” Keller, 61, laughs, “I won’t miss that.”
Keller says the worst outbreak she experienced since she started at Point Road in September 1990 was about five years ago when about 97 students in the second grade were afflicted.
She also won’t miss all of the meetings and paperwork required of the job. “I’d rather just do kids all the time.”
Keller started her career as an operating room nurse and says she was surprised to find how much she loved working with little children.
“There’s just such an innocence about them,” she says, recalling how one little one was worried when he arrived at her office for routine hearing and vision testing that she was going to give him a shot.
Keller, who downsized not long ago to a new house in Shark River Hills, will join her husband of 41 years in retirement and the two are planning to head south to spend time at their place in Naples, FL.
“Just like the old people do,” she jokes. There, she’ll be able to walk the beach the way she says she loves to do every day in the summer in Avon. She’ll also have more time to spend with her two grown children and five grandchildren.
She says she found her way to Point Road through fellow Ocean Township resident, and former Markham Place School principal, Don Merce. She was working as the nurse at Ocean Township High School when he called to see if she’d be interested in working in Little Silver with the elementary school children. She wasn’t sure at first about working with little kids, “But I found out I really liked it a lot.”
Keller says her best advice for Gail Hall, who will become Point Road’s new school nurse this winter, is to get to know all of the students and be patient. “It’s a job you have to grow into,” she says. “You’ve got to know all of the kids you need to pay close attention to.”
“It’s a fun job,” Keller says.