Bonnie Boehnke has touched the lives of thousands of students who have walked through Kamiakin High School’s main office doors during the last 17 years.
The longtime secretary to the principal has provided support and care to countless high schoolers, whom she has loved like her own children. Friday is her final last day of school.
Boehnke, who is retiring after 37 years with the Kennewick School District, loved watching her students grow, she said.
Some can barely see over the counter of the Kamiakin main office when they start as freshmen. Each year, she sees them grow in height as well as in personality.
“They’ve got adventure in their eyes,” she said. “They just look like they are ready to conquer the world, and I love that.”
Boehnke makes everyone feel special and goes out of her way to help others, said Chris Chelin, Kamiakin principal.
She’s well-known for her hugs and kind notes.
“Her positive demeanor and servant’s heart ... create a culture where visitors feel special,” he said. “People either love her, or they haven’t met her yet, and when they do, they will love her.”
Boehnke will be missed, he said.
“She knows the answer to every question, oftentimes before it is asked.” Chelin said. “Staff depend on her for so many things that when she is gone, we will not know what to do.”
Over the years, Boehnke has worked with about 24 principals and assistant principals.
She has always been excited and ready to go each first day of school, with a new outfit all laid out in preparation, she said. There hasn’t been a single school day where she wanted to be anywhere else.
There’s something new every day, she said. And interacting with her peers and students always brings a reward.
Boehnke helped open Desert Hills Middle School. She recalls how it was surrounded by farm fields. As new homes were built and the new residents planted yards, she sent thank-you notes to some for helping beautify the area.
Middle schoolers were a challenge, but she said, “I loved them; it was just the best ever.”
She then spent five years each at Lincoln and Eastgate elementary schools.
She decided to move to Kamiakin in 1998 because it was a chance to go from a 10-month position to a full 12 months. She thought she would stay a few years, but she fell in love with the school and decided to stay.
When she came to Kamiakin, Boehnke got a chance to reunite with many of the Lincoln Elementary School students with whom she had worked.
She was asked to speak at their baccalaureate, a nondenominational church service organized by the seniors before graduating. That was a true honor, she said.
And she has had a chance to work with the high school children of the former middle school students she cared for at Desert Hills.
Kamiakin is the school from which her sons graduated. And she has had the honor of handing diploma cases to five of her grandchildren at Kamiakin’s graduation ceremonies. Two of them — Skyler and Brandon Boehnke — graduated Saturday.
She has attended each graduation during her 17 years, and said she’s typically the token crier. There is nothing like seeing students who struggled to overcome challenges succeed and get their chance to graduate, she said. Each graduating Brave is a true winner.
As much as Boehnke loves her job, she says it’s time to retire. She’s 70, and her husband, Gary, has been retired for the past 12 years. He’s a retired Army lieutenant colonel and a retired Hanford worker.
She has quite a few plans for retirement, including picking up some of the unfinished projects in her sewing room and spending more time with her family.
But Boehnke also would like to write a book about working in schools from the classified employee perspective. She wants to see other classified employees be proud of all they do for kids.