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December 20, 2023

After more than five decades working with students, Connie Frank has no plans to slow down

Author: Molly Belmont
Source:  NYSUT Communications
connie frank

Our "It's What We Do" series offers portraits of NYSUT educators who give back to their communities and across the world.

Connie Frank began working at Rush-Henrietta Central School District 52 years ago as a cafeteria aide at Vollmer Elementary.

“My job was handing out straws and napkins, opening thermoses, tying shoelaces. The kids enthralled me because they were so cute and sweet,” Frank said. In the intervening years, she worked in the central office of the high school, served as a parking attendant for games and events, and staffed study halls – anything to stay close to the students, who she all nicknamed “precious.”

“The kids are what get me up in the morning,” she said.

Frank is a self-described “people person” and over the course of the last five decades, the high school has become her second home. “I have met so many wonderful people here. Everyone just gets along so well,” she said. Frank also taught volleyball through the continuing education program, where she met more lifelong friends.

Over the years, she has worked with older kids and younger kids. “I treat all my kids the same. I always explain my reasons for doing things, and they have never given me a problem,” she said. She has seen students at their best moments and at their worst moments. “I spent 20 years in the office as assistant to the vice principal, and I saw plenty of kids get in trouble, but I was always nice to them. I even had some kids ask me, ‘Why are you being so nice to me?’ and I would tell them, ‘Everybody makes mistakes. If you don’t make mistakes you don’t learn.’”

She has witnessed dramatic economic and cultural shifts. “Nowadays everyone has their nose in their phone when they’re walking in the hallways, but sometimes I get a student who says ‘Hi’ and that makes my day.”

Throughout it all, her enthusiasm for her work has remained undiminished, and despite her longevity, she has no plans to retire.

She and her husband, Lionel, have two grown children, a daughter who lives in Syracuse and a son who lives in Batavia. Her husband has been retired for more than 20 years from his job as an engineer at Alstom Transport, and while he encourages her to join him, he understands why she stays.

“Every time we meet one of my students out, he always says, ‘I see why you have to work.’”