Celebrating Celeste Strege: the beloved backbone of the high school

It’s 9 a.m. and Celeste Strege has four teachers who are out that day. Her job is to find substitutes for each class that have no supervision for the students. To make matters worse, she had to work quickly due to the school schedule time for the first period which began 30 minutes ago. 

Raisa Guerrero

Strege is an administrative specialist, specifically the principal’s secretary. She just makes an impact every day at the high school and is very involved with her staff members and their work routines.

“She is very important to everything important in La Quinta,’’ said Dr. Rudy Wilson, who is the high school’s principal. 

Heading into work, Strege’s daily morning routine is to monitor the paraeducators and staff members on campus. She does this by checking who is attending work, absent, or at a conference.

Every morning, she prints out an absent report, which has all the information on who’s missing from work that day. Knowing that she has to find substitute teachers for every class that has no supervision, she contacts substitutes who are available.  

The only problem she has is if no one calls her to take the available positions, then she will have to inform teachers to fill in their colleagues’ classes during their prep period. 

She doesn’t think that her daily routines or agenda are a huge struggle, but she does think that the worst struggle for everybody is the pandemic. 

‘’Mainly I don’t have any struggles, it’s just that I need to be very organized to meet all the different deadlines for payroll or board items,’’ Strege said. 

She has to multitask every day so that everything runs smoothly without errors or mistakes. She also keeps records in her calendar book on who is absent and she always prints out two papers for her and Dr. Wilson or any staff member who needs to review the absolute report. 

Raisa Guerrero

The attendance motherloads reports are not the only thing she needs to get done on a daily basis: she also ensures the staff members get paid. 

“Every day there are new problems that occur. Each day is different from the next and situations are different. Most days are better than the last and some days are just stressful,’’  Strege said.

‘’Sorry, I have a question,’’ said a paraeducator.

‘’Yes?’’ said Strege.

That morning, a paraeducator walked into Strege’s office to make sure that a substitute would be paid after covering her classes for a week due to a meeting. This is one of many of Strege’s responsibilities throughout the day. 

“Thank you,” said the paraeducator.

Even staff members have to knock on Strege’s door during school hours just to inform her of their absence or schedule for the week so she is able to document it in her absolute reports. 

“Whenever I have a problem that comes up from the office, I have to get focused and solve the problem piece by piece,’’ Strege said.

Strege does get help from staff members, like the office receptionist or the bilingual office specialist. 

‘’She’s always very helpful and very polite,’’ Marcella Cazares, who is the bilingual office specialist, said. ‘’I just help her with events during the school day or upcoming events. We all do whatever we can.”’

Before Strege had the position, she was at home raising her sons for four years. She has been married for 38 years and is a mother of two boys. Both of her sons graduated from La Quinta High and then Cal Poly Pomona.  One is a professional structural engineer and the other is a writer. 

She loves to exercise and play with her dogs and attends to new plants that are blooming in her garden. Strege is also learning how to cook more vegan recipes. 

She started as a paraeducator for Desert Sands, then worked security at La Quinta Middle School. At John Glenn Middle, she worked for directors in IT services at the district.  

She had many jobs before being interviewed by Dr. Donna Salazar, who, at the time, was the principal at La Quinta High School. (Salazar recently retired as one of the school district’s assistant superintendents.) Since then, she has assisted three principals since she got hired in 2009 and is still assisting the current principal.

Strege helps Dr. Wilson by making sure all his important meetings are organized in his schedule and makes sure he is also prepared for his meetings. 

The meetings she helps him with are with teachers, parents, and stakeholders — including community members. 

“Celeste is one of the nicest people I have ever worked with. She is really good with people and works hard,’’ said Dr. Wilson.

Dr. Wilson also mentioned that when emergencies arise, she takes care of a situation, especially when a teacher is out of class. Dr. Wilson even has had to supervise classrooms when there is a substitute teacher shortage.

‘’One of the nicest things she has done is give me a USC football as a gift,” he said. “This football is very special because USC football players could sign them.” 

Her ambition is to retire. 

“I look forward to retiring someday and relocating out-of-state, so it would be exciting because I have lived in the desert my whole life,’’ Strege said.

She also mentioned that she grew up in Indio, went to Kennedy Elementary School, then went to Thomas Jefferson Middle, Indio High School, and finally, College of the Desert.

‘’I was always a good student, never had Fs, I had Bs and Cs,” said Strege. “Always did my assignments.” 

Even in her many years of life, she still has ambitions and dreams. As a person who helps students and the community, she has made a huge impact on the school community. 

She advises students to make the best of their education and to enjoy their lives. 

“Have some good hobbies and do your best in your exciting life that is about to come,” she said.