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Unsung Hero Becky Botelho

UNSUNG HERO

The Unsung Hero is designated by Superintendent of Schools Lori S. Duerr to shine a well-deserved spotlight on individuals in the Falmouth Public Schools who make invaluable contributions to the district. 

Unsung Hero Becky Botelho: Feeding Kindness and Respect to Students at Lawrence 

By Sarah E. Murphy 

Becky BotelhoLawrence School Kitchen Lead Becky Botelho has been a familiar, smiling face to Bulldog students and staff since 1988.

Becky began her career with Falmouth Public School as a part-time dishwasher at the school. A single parent to her son, Christopher, the 15-hour a week position was initially  conducive to her schedule. 

“It was mother’s hours, so that was perfect for me back then,” she said. 

After a year at Lawrence, in an effort to earn benefits, Becky transferred to East Falmouth Elementary School as longtime employees retired and additional work hours became available. She spent two years at East, before returning to her original spot in the kitchen at Lawrence. Becky was eventually promoted to management twenty years ago. 

Becky not only oversees but also prepares and serves breakfast and lunch at Lawrence five days a week, in addition to the behind-the-scenes tasks involved with running the school kitchen, such as inventory, budgeting, and meeting nutritional standards. 

Becky appreciates the personal interaction that comes with her role, especially with the students.

“I enjoy getting to know a lot of the kids. Some of them are shy and quiet at first. But before long, they’re making conversation with us as they go through the line,” she said. 

Becky highlighted the unfortunate reality of food insecurity. 

“For some children, these are the only steady meals they can rely on,” she said. 

In her experience, due to feelings of shame and embarrassment, older students are less inclined to admit to being hungry than elementary school children. To that end, Becky provides Lawrence administrators with access to nutritious snacks that can be obtained discreetly, such as fresh fruit and granola bars.

“The administration is very in-tune with the kids, so they know if they need something extra for a student, they can always get it,” she said. 

“When kids are hungry, they can’t learn or do their lessons if all they can think about is food.”

A typical day for Becky begins at 7:20 a.m., when she and her colleagues arrive to set-up the 8:05 breakfast, ranging from cereal and yogurt to pancakes, french toast sticks, and warm muffins. While pizza for lunch is always a crowd-pleaser, the students also enjoy many home-cooked offerings, including turkey with all the trimmings. Advance preparation is required for special meals, such as allowing for a few days to defrost the turkey in the refrigerator.

“I like to roast sweet potatoes with olive oil to give the kids something a little different, and they really love them,” Becky said. 

Throughout the pandemic, Becky had to learn safety measures and stay updated on daily changes for protocol, including keeping appropriate distance from her co-workers without facing them directly, all while wearing a mask despite the oppressive kitchen heat. During that time, she and her team prepared lunches that were delivered on carts and left outside the door of each classroom.  

While food is the main objective of her role, for Becky, it’s the people at Lawrence who make each day rewarding, including her son, Christopher Botelho, who has served on the custodial staff for the past 17 years. 

“It’s a really comfortable place, and everyone is so nice. The teachers include you in everything, and they come down to talk to you. If you need anything, you can always go to anyone, and if they can’t help, they’ll find someone who can,” Becky remarked. 

“It really is like family here. It’s like a second home.” 

Becky’s service to FPS dates back so long that Principal Thomas Bushy first met her as a student in her lunch line. He emphasized Becky’s dedication to the school, in particular, the emotional intelligence she brings to her position. 

“Becky is flexible, hard-working, and compassionate. She is able to change plans to accommodate a field trip, testing scenario, student discipline issue, or faculty need in a moment’s notice, and she does this with a positive attitude and efficiency,” Mr. Bushy said. 

“Most importantly, she treats every student with kindness and respect - every lunch, every day, all year.” 

Director of Food Services Andrea Burnes first met Becky when they worked together in the early years of their careers with FPS. Ms. Burnes underscored Becky’s work ethic in addition to her people skills, specifically her ability to interact with the unique age of Bulldog students. 

“Becky Botelho is probably one of the most dedicated employees I’ve ever had. She’s extremely level-headed, and her personality is such an asset to the students. She and her staff have a really nice way about them with this particular age group. She’s very supportive of the program and the students, and she just has a kind way about her. She also has a great sense of humor, which I discovered when I worked with her briefly. She’s extremely reliable and dependable. If I ask her to do something, I know I don’t have to worry or think about a thing, because she has everything under control at all times,” Ms. Burnes said. 

“She’s been working short-handed since Covid, but especially recently, and she never complains or asks for anything. Honestly, we’d be lost without Becky.” 

Superintendent of Schools Lori S. Duerr cited the importance of Becky’s role, not just at Lawrence School, but in the district.

“Ensuring that our Clippers feel safe, heard, and valued throughout their journey in Falmouth Public Schools is essential to their educational success and inherent to our mission, not to mention the importance of providing them sustenance. Employees like Becky Botelho are invaluable, for every interaction throughout their day contributes to that experience,” Dr. Duerr said. 

“Not only is Ms. Botelho committed to making sure no child is ever hungry or overlooked, she utilizes her natural ability to forge connections and nurture their spirits. Such skills can't be taught, and our district is better because of her many years of commitment.”

Sarah E. Murphy
s_murphy@falmouth.k12.ma.us