BROWNSBURG — It was one week before school started in 1996 and Donna Petraits hadn’t taught in a classroom in 12 years. Then she got a call from an old friend, Russell Hodgkin, then-principal at Brownsburg High School asking her if she would consider stepping back into the classroom.
“I had worked for him in Zionsville,” said Petraits, the Brownsburg Community School Corporation communications coordinator who will be saying goodbye to the district when she walks out the door this coming Friday. “He said he was in desperate need for an English teacher and yearbook adviser.
“I resigned my job on Thursday, cleaned my office Friday, showed up for teacher meetings Monday, and taught my first class in a dozen years Wednesday,” she said. “It was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Petraits said she left teaching in 1984 because her personal life had become so strained, it forced her to leave education. But the second go-around was different.
“Teaching was so much better the second time around,” she said, “because I’d gotten comfortable in my own skin.”
In between, Petraits held a sales position, and said that helped her gain more confidence to help show students why their education was so important. By 2003, the corporation had grown to needing a communications director. Five years later, she stepped out of the classroom to do that full-time.
“As the corporation grew, the issues grew, so there was more need for communication,” she said, noting at the time she was teaching a mass media class that she’d created.
“For years, it probably wasn’t that big of a deal,” she said. “Schools could ride on the coattails of their reputations and there wasn’t a lot of upheaval and turmoil in education. But now there’s high stakes testing, our budgets are being cut — a lot controlled by the state — so it’s critical for schools to be in communication with parents so they understand what the situation is. Really, it’s important for any taxpayer that supports the schools and any member of the community.”