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June Atkinson’s Blog: Remembering Mr. Buford

Earlier this month, I visited with bus drivers at Herbert Akins Elementary to celebrate Love the Bus month and to thank these dedicated professionals for all they do.  Many drivers told me that they still look forward to coming to work every single day, even after more than 20 or 30 years driving buses for their district. They told me that the main reason that they continue to find so much joy in their job, especially after many decades, is the students. And I didn’t have to talk to many students to see that these feelings were mutual.

These conversations reminded me of a special person in my past – Mr. Elmer Buford.  He was the janitor at Montvale Elementary School in Bedford County, West Virginia. He was tall, slim and had a warm smile. Mr. Buford was always at our school to greet students as they arrived each morning. He talked with us as we finished our lunch and cleaned up our trays. And after lunch, he would come out on the playground and join us as we played games. By the time I graduated from elementary school, I felt like Mr. Buford had become part of our family.

Although Mr. Buford didn’t teach in a classroom, he still had a positive impact on my life as well as the lives of many other students.  There are many janitors, bus drivers, school counselors, front office managers, school nurses, receptionists and others working in schools and school districts across North Carolina who shape students’ lives each day although these staff members may not work directly in the classroom. It is likely that many students will remember these special people so many years later and experience the same gratitude and admiration I feel for Mr. Buford. We are fortunate to have these caring professionals working for our public schools. I hope you will join me in thanking them for their important work, not just during one month, but throughout the school year.

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Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.

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