Ridgewood High School receptionist Jo Koumas has had lots of jobs in 39 years at Norridge school
For awhile, Jo Koumas used to walk two-and-a-half miles to her job at Ridgewood High School in Norridge. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:04AM
NORRIDGE — Jo Koumas loves to tell people where to go.
Directing visitors is part of her job at Ridgewood High School, where she’s been manning the receptionist desk for the last several years.
But she’s been at the school long before that.
“I’ve worked all over this building,” said Koumas, who has put in 39 years at the school that serves residents of Norridge and Harwood Heights.
For eight years, she worked in the library as an aide.
“The shelves have always been my first love,” she said. “I can recall working on them when I was in grade school.”
Koumas said the job was a very physical one that included going up and down the ladders.
“That cart always was overloaded with books needing to go back on the shelves,” she explained. “Some of them were pretty heavy.”
She did a couple of stints working in science lab, cleaning up the slides and putting away the microscopes.
Depending on the project, some of those slides could be really slimy, but it just was part of the job.
“I didn’t mind,” Koumas said. “The slides needed to be cleaned.”
She also worked as an aide in the math lab, the home economics classroom, the physical education department and the cafeteria.
“I was a jack of all trades,” she said, with a laugh. “I loved every place I worked.
“Every area was good,” she noted. “I always liked what I was doing.”
In the 1980s, when she lost her ride to work, Koumas used to walk the 2-1/2 miles from her home in Chicago to Ridgewood.
“It was something I felt I needed to do,” she explained. “My attendance record is important to me.”
And walk she would, even if parents offered her a ride.
Her route was the back road through the tennis courts, along with many students.
One day, when the snow was piling up, she and her fellow pedestrians found the gate to the courts was locked.
“In the days before cell phones, we couldn’t just call and ask to have someone open the gates,” Koumas said. “We trudged the long way around through the snow.”
That trip almost caused the students to be reprimanded for being late.
“We were tardy because the court gates weren’t open,” she said. “I had to stick up for the kids.
“I was right there with them.”
That little streak of defiance and a work ethic based on doing whatever needs to be done has served Koumas well.
“I’m independent,” she said.
But the camaraderie at Ridgewood is what Koumas enjoys.
“I’ve got it good here,” she said. “The kids, the teachers, everybody — they’re the best.”