By Margaret Ballinger, Netzaberg Elementary School Teacher
NETZABERG, Germany — If you have children at Netzaberg Elementary School, or if you’ve ever visited our school here, you probably know April Philippi.
April is an Army wife, mother of three and a dual-hatted front-office employee at NES. Respected by all — from administrator to teacher to parent and student — April is the “invisible hand” that keeps our school organized and on track.
I interviewed April. Here’s what she had to say.
Provide us a short background on your personal journey that brought you here today.
I grew up in Southern California by a single mother raising four children. She worked incredibly hard yet still showed us kids that we were loved and cared for. I like to think that I get my personality and work ethic from her.
After high school I was a medical assistant for a year then I joined the Army and became a Military Police Officer. I loved the Army! I met my husband while we were at our first duty station, Korea. After three years in, we decided that staying at home and raising the kids would be the best choice for our family.
I became a stay-at-home parent for the next eight years and completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management while doing so. It was a tough transition but I loved every minute.
Fast forward to 2015 … orders for Germany. We were beyond excited. After discussing our time here, I decided I wanted to work and applied for the secretary job at Netzaberg Elementary. I knew I wanted to work at the school my kids attended and it was the deciding factor for me going back to work. I was offered the job and here I am still loving my job today.
Military spouses sacrifice a lot. Describe some of your own sacrifices. Where would you be if you were not following your husband’s career?
While we do sacrifice a lot, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I have two main passions: business management and working with children. I strongly feel that this job fulfills my passions and I deeply enjoy it. However, we eventually have to move when the military calls and I will look for a job similar to this one. So, one of the main sacrifices of following my husband’s career is not being able to stay at one job or career for a long period of time.
This is a downfall, however I’ve learned to look at it from a better view. I will have gained valuable experience for my next job at our next duty station. It’s all in how you view it!
What does your average day look like?
I wake up at 0450 to get me and the kiddos ready to leave at 0630 to be at work by 0700 each day. Every morning collaborate with the administrators to figure out the puzzle of finding substitutes to cover teachers being out for the day and vacant positions at our school. This can be a very time-consuming task. At 0800 the school bell rings and many parents and students fill the office for various reasons and I help them with their needs. After the morning rush, it is time to focus on registrar and secretary duties.
Our staffing situation wanes having good days and not-so-good days. I have been the acting secretary for most of the time employed here while my actual title and job description is registrar.
What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career?
Do what you love and find a good work-life balance. Like many have said, if you love what you do, then you won’t feel like you are working.
As a working mom, finding a work-life balance is difficult. I am so thankful for this job, our administrators, and our staff members because they too have families and understand the difficulties life brings.
Who are your top female role models, and what about each inspires you?
My number one is my mother. She is a single parent who has worked her tail off at Rite Aid for the past 30 years. She always provided for us, although we were very poor. She was hard worker and has never given up, no matter what life throws her way. She always moves forward.
My second is my mother-in-law. She and my father-in-law have been married over 55 years and going strong and have ten children, 34 grand-children and five great-grandchildren. She has been a stay-at-home mom and devoted wife, mother and grandmother the entire time. I look to her for advice in the areas of marriage, cooking and faith. She is a loving woman who is always there for everyone no matter the situation.
What was the last song you played on your iPod/iPhone?
Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feelin'”. This may sound pretty dorky, but I am a long time NSync Fan. When I was younger I attended like 6 concerts. So my love for JT has kept going. And I like his music.
Any advice for other military spouses?
Life throws many curveballs, especially being a military spouse. My advice is love your husband with all of your heart and love and respect him and what he does for the family. Be flexible all the time. Cry when needed, then move along. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice. Be nice to your fellow military spouse. Make new friends and keep the old. Pray for everything and anything.
Editor’s Note: Influential Women of Bavaria is a series of stories on women located at USAG Bavaria who lead positive examples. The series runs through the month of March, Women’s History Month. Around the world, women bring a special vitality and balance to schools, businesses, governments and militaries. The same is true at USAG Bavaria. From supporting Soldiers at home to serving in the front lines and even holding positions of leadership, women in Bavaria are pretty noteworthy. The short pieces from Influential Women of Bavaria are just one way of capturing that.