Need to know the lunch schedule for St. Bruno Catholic School in Whittier? See Mrs. Whyte, the office worker.
Need to tour the campus? See Mrs. Whyte, the marketing staffer.
Need help because you’re not feeling well? See Mrs. Whyte, the registered nurse.
The list of hats worn by Margie Whyte at St. Bruno goes on and on. Her unwritten job description: to go where she is needed and give her best. It’s what you do when you’ve been connected to a place your whole life.
“I love St. Bruno because it’s literally part of my soul and my being,” said Whyte. “I’m happy to say I’ve been part of it since the early 1970s.”
Whyte’s nametag introduces her as the school’s Health, Development and Marketing coordinator but it doesn’t list all the whys. She went here, her children went here, her mom taught here, and her Catholic faith lives here.
“We say God at this school,” said Whyte. “We talk about God every day. We’re always looking at everything through the lens of our Catholic faith.”
Whyte’s primary task is to keep students “healthy and safe.” To that end, her office looks like any other medical facility; brightly lit with white walls and neat rows of jars filled with bandages, cotton pads, and tongue depressors. The artwork reveals a love of horses.
When her oldest child was a kindergartner here, Whyte was laid off from her critical care nursing job. The principal offered her a lifeline.
“I didn’t like the thought of going back to 12-hour shifts and slinging bedpans,” recalled Whyte. “This was just a godsend for me.”
On a typical day, Whyte dispenses prescribed medications and deals with minor scrapes and tummy aches for any of the school’s 310 students. On a rare day, she handles a broken bone or seizure. She keeps at the ready devices like EpiPens for severe allergic reactions, and inhalers for delivering medications to the lungs.
The latter is particularly important to Rene and Alicia Dominguez. They have three children at St. Bruno, including twins who were born prematurely. Alicia calls them her “miracle babies,”’ and when she learned St. Bruno had a registered nurse on staff, she knew this was the place for them.
“My son has asthma and it gives me peace of mind that Mrs. Whyte is here in case he has an attack,” explained Alicia. “It’s like a member of the family is there looking after my children.”
If not dealing with sick students or answering calls at the front office, Whyte is the one making calls promoting school fundraisers to local newspapers. She then updates the Instagram and Facebook pages with announcements like the Catholic Schools Week Open House, which took place Jan. 29.
For Whyte, the annual event involves dozens of school tours to prospective families. She estimates she’ll give around 50 before the school year is over. One of her favorite stops in the school’s hallways is the campus “pro-life board,” displaying information and pictures on fetal development.
“We teach the students from kindergarten on up to value life,” said Whyte. “By the time they’re in junior high, they can explain why it’s so important. It’s beautiful to hear them speak.”
Principal Nancy Chavana said Whyte demonstrates the values of St. Bruno in how she “exemplifies that nurturing, that compassion, that love. We’re very blessed to have her.”
Whyte fondly recalled her own school days here. The atmosphere was “lovely and homey,” particularly with her mom just down the hall. She shares old photos of herself wearing her plaid uniform with her favorite cowboy boots.
“I remember myself as a shy, quiet girl but my report card reflected otherwise,” said a smirking Whyte. “Evidently, I was also a little chatty in class.”
Years later, Whyte and her husband, Michael, sent their sons to those very same classrooms. She said it was nice for her but more complicated for Riley, Colin, and Aidan. Riley, who is now a dispatcher for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said the closeness was 99% amazing, 1% not so much.
“We were young, mischievous. You know, boys will be boys,” laughed Riley. “But we had a great childhood. Our mom is the cornerstone of our family. She taught us the importance of faith and hard work.”
Occasionally, Riley likes to visit the school and watch his mom do what she does best, take care of others — mind, body, and soul. The students seem to sense this.
“If I look into her office and she’s not busy I can come in and say hi,” said Maya Silva, a seventh-grader at St. Bruno. “She shows me pictures of her puppy and asks me how my day is.”
Classmate Sofia Waldo pointed out that everyone knows Mrs. Whyte. And you can tell that’s true thanks to the constant chorus of “Hi Mrs. Whyte!” that follows her wherever she goes.
“She’s always there for us,” said Waldo. “She’s very kind to all the kids. We really like her.”
Whyte said she’s not ready to talk about retirement yet, especially since her grandchildren will keep with family tradition and attend St. Bruno in a couple of years. “If the school will have me, I will gently slide into retirement right from this chair,” said Whyte. “I just hope all these students have at least one vivid memory of me helping them in some way.”