Although she may not have been directly involved in educating children, anyone who knows the Columbia School District knows Jana Eytchison left an indelible mark during her 26 years as a secretary in the district.
While her legacy will continue, Eytchison has now retired.
“I have been extremely blessed,” Eytchison said of her career. “You don’t normally stay at a job for 26 years unless you love it. And I love it. I’m proud to be a Columbia Eagle and will always bleed blue.”
Eytchison began working in the district in February 1994 after being a legal secretary for 14 years in Mascoutah, St. Louis and Columbia.
“My oldest child was going to be entering kindergarten, and I thought working at the school would be a perfect fit,” Eytchison recalled.
She was hired as the secretary for grades 3-5, which was located in one wing of what is now Eagleview Elementary School.
Eytchison said her boss, former principal Mike Beczkala, kept her busy.
“Dr. Beczkala was the principal for grades K-5,” she explained. “K-2 was at Parkview, so he would go back and forth from (the Unit Building) and Parkview. He was a busy guy.”
In 2006, Eytchison was promoted from district to building secretary.
Although she had more responsibilities in some ways with that role, Eytchison said a building secretary does more than just typical secretarial work.
“Building secretaries wear many hats, when needed,” she said. “Nurse, counselor, in-school suspension supervisor, phone operator, you name it. Sometimes kids — and sometimes teachers — just need a hug, and that’s the best part.”
Eytchison said she will miss “working for 125 of the absolute best people on the planet,” now that she is retired.
“I have made so many lifelong friends who I will miss terribly,” she said.
She will not have the same feelings toward keeping up with the ever-shifting state laws, rules and regulations, which she said were the most challenging part of her job.
It was not those difficulties, however, that made her decide to retire.
After 26 years, this seemed like the opportune moment.
“This has definitely been the strangest school year in history,” Eytchison said. “With the COVID issues and with a new superintendent coming in, it just seemed like the perfect time.”
Eythcison said she is playing her retirement plans “by ear,” though she intends to spend more time with her soon-to-be 95-year-old mother and perhaps volunteer or go back to school.