Every school is like an intricate puzzle, where everyone who works there serves a significant purpose. In addition to the teachers, there are many other people at your children’s schools that work hard to shape your child into a smart, caring and hard- working adult. From the librarians and custodians to the dedicated staff that help your child at lunchtime, all of these local school heroes share a common ground: they’re passionate about the kids they engage with and work endlessly to make a positive impact on your child’s life.
Donna Barr, who works as a media aide at Duval Early Learning Academy, acknowledges the benefits of what a good educational system can bring to students, as she’s seen the impact on her own children when she sent them to school and, thus, wanted to be a part of the process.
“My kids went to Duval when they were in elementary school,” said Barr. “I thought that it would be a great honor to work at the same place that helped my children grow and learn.”
While working as a media aid for the last four years, her job asks her to be incredibly versatile and help anywhere she can. Not only does Barr require media knowledge to assist teachers and students in operating audiovisual equipment and computers, she also helps with lunch duty and works in the media center, where she spends her time checking books out to the students.
“The biggest part of working with the students is making sure they are following directions, being safe throughout the day and respecting school rules,” said Barr. “The fun part is listening to the stories they share, working on activities together and reading together.”
Roosevelt Hutchinson, 79, has been a custodian at Chester Shell Elementary in Hawthorne for a total of 45 years. While he initially retired 15 years ago, when the school asked him to come back, Hutchinson returned without a second thought.
“I love the kids,” said Hutchinson. “I just feel like they’re all my babies, every single one. I take pride in what I do, which brought me back.”
“A principal said years ago that I’m not a clock pusher,” said Hutchinson. “I don’t work towards the time or clocking out. If you take pride in what you do, those things don’t bother you.”
Angie Curtis, who is a devoted food service assistant, has maneuvered her way through the school system for the last 15 years. She’s worked as a teacher’s aide, a bus driver, a custodian and in the kitchen at W.A. Metcalfe Elementary.
Curtis expresses her appreciation for the children through the way she prepares the food, which she said is created with love, to her determination to provide a safe outlet in the lunch line for kids to be themselves.
“There are times where children go through things at home and nobody is ever gonna know. So, I ask them, ‘are you okay?’,” said Curtis. “They have told me, ‘I appreciate you asking me that, because I have gone all day and nobody has asked me anything’.”
In October of 2018, Curtis transitioned to working in the food truck, which is an essential part of the district’s Free Summer Meals Program, which provides maximum accessibility for children to receive free breakfast and lunch during the summer. Out of all the jobs she’s worked, she said this is her favorite.
“If I retire, it would be from the food truck,” said Curtis. “I found the main job that God gave me. It gives me everything I’ve wanted, the adrenaline, the children, the interacting with good people, it’s all in that one package. Nothing but happiness.”
In November of 2018, Curtis was awarded Employee of the Month from the Alachua County Food & Nutrition Services.
“I always said I was always going to work with children, no matter what it was, as long as children were around, that was what brought me joy,” said Curtis. “My husband always says, ‘I know you love your job, you’re there all the time.’”