Forbes Road’s Byron Helsel Stepping Down
If given the opportunity to say a few parting words to the student body roaming the halls and classrooms of Forbes Road Elementary, Byron Helsel said he would encourage students to remain positive, strive to do their best and to remember they are as good as anyone else in the world.
With his letter of resignation effective June 30, the outgoing principal and director of elementary education considers this newest stage of his life as more of a transition than a full-fledged retirement.
The son of Harry and Mary Helsel of Wells Tannery, Helsel graduated from Forbes Road High School in 1970 and became the first member of his family to receive a four-year degree. Helsel received his degree in elementary education in 1974 from York College and ironically got his first teaching job overseeing fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students at the Wells-Taylor School.
Looking back, he jokingly notes he could have gotten the ball rolling for the many others in his extended family who also went into the field of education, such as his younger brother, sister and eldest brother’s wife.
Helsel, 58, went on to receive his principal’s certificate in 1997 after receiving a degree in administration from Shippensburg University. Following the suggestion of former Superintendent Dr. Merrill Arnold, Helsel broadened his horizons by accepting a threeyear position overseeing elementary schools in the Juniata County School District.
Helsel stated even though leaving a school district he called “home” was undoubtedly one of the more heartbreaking decisions he made in his career, it also proved to be one of his greatest achievements as it aided in his return to Forbes Road Elementary as principal. The transition to Juniata County, according to Helsel, was difficult as he commuted daily to and from his former home in Everett. He was, however, able to secure a residence during his final two years in Juniata County and was proud to have one of his two daughters relocate and graduate from the district.
In returning to Forbes Road in 2000, Helsel noted he was able to develop and initiate some worthwhile programs that are still in existence today, including the expansion of the Red Birds K-4 program; the continuation of longtime student field trips; developing the part-time guidance counselor position into a full-time role; the Forbes Road Hall of Fame; and the establishment of Grandparents Day, which boasted more than 200 in attendance in 2010.
In hopes of moving forward with his career at Forbes Road, Helsel was also successful in obtaining his superintendent’s letter of eligibility five years ago.
Having logged a total of 36 years in the field of education, Helsel is proud to say he has spent a total of 45 years of his life walking the halls of Forbes Road. “It’s home. I’ve always respected the people in the community and wanted the children to get the best education possible of anywhere in the Intermediate Unit,” he said.
A devout Cardinal fan, Helsel said he hopes people in the district remember him years from now as “bleeding blue and gold for the school, kids and taxpayers.” Meanwhile, his own favorite memories entail hugs from the students and hearing over lunch break their stories and concerns.
Looking to the future, Helsel indicated his decision to resign as director of elementary education isn’t necessarily a retirement as he has received the nod of approval to take over Helman Busing. Having first considered this route 10 years ago, and certainly not content to rest on his laurels, Helsel will likely be sitting behind one of the wheels of the fleet of buses he will be overseeing as a transportation contractor.
“The biggest loss is that I won’t get to see all of the students every day, maybe just 70 of them,” he concluded. Furthermore, he and his wife, Janet, hope to continue putting finishing touches on their home in Wells Tannery. He also serves as president of the Wells Tannery Community Park Association, which is actively working to rejuvenate the annual homecoming festivities slated for July 31.