THIS MONTH'S WINNER: Jeri Eshelman – Lead Security Officer at Arcadia High School
Tell us about how you became the security guard at Arcadia.
I started volunteering at Hopi, because of my two daughters. When my kids got older, I started subbing at Ingleside and Hohokam. It was great, because I got to go to school with my kids.
The principal of Arcadia at the time had also been the principal at Ingleside when my daughter went there. And he called me up and said, your daughter said it would be ok if you worked as a security guard at the school. My very first day there was a fight, and I didn’t know the east from west on this campus. So I called out over the radio, and everyone ended up at the wrong spot.
I knew all of the kids at the school right away because I had subbed for so many years, so they all called me Mrs. Eshelman instead of Jeri. Eventually they all graduated, but I decided that I still liked Mrs. Eshelman. I’m old school, and I tell the kids, I’m older than you, so you get to call me Mrs. Eshelman.
You have a signature look on campus with your big hat.
Tell us about that.
It started because I had skin cancer. So, I had to wear this big hat, and it just became part of my work outfit. I got an anti-bully pin years ago and I wear that on the hat too. Kids always ask me for the pin, so I have a bunch of ones like it that I’ll hand out. But the kids always recognize me because of the hat. I always tell them, don’t put up a picture of me when I die, just put up a picture of the hat!
What do you love about Arcadia High School and the surrounding community?
We’re a family. You’ve probably heard this line before, but my dad was here visiting my kids once and he said that Arcadia seems like a small town in a big city. The parents are wonderful, I work with so many nice people at the school. And it’s a real team with the other security officers. It really is like a family.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Dealing with the students. My parents had a camp growing up, and I would work there as a counselor. I loved it, I’ve always loved working with kids.
I want to be able to help our kids any way I can. I’ll talk with them about their problems, let them vent to me. The nicest thing about winning this award was having so many of the students come up to me afterward and tell me I deserved it.
How much longer do you want to keep doing this?
Well I can’t really say because it keeps getting pushed back. I was going to go in 2020 when my niece graduated. But I had a friend tell me I couldn’t leave before 2021 because that was when her daughter will graduate. Now, though, I have another niece who just started her freshman year. So right now, the plan is 2022.
My younger niece told me I didn’t have to stay for her. But I said yeah, I do. I still love it. The real answer is as long as my legs holds up.