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Beloved school custodian teaches students important lessons outside of their textbooks

"He's just amazing," second grade teacher Brittany Booth said. "He goes above and beyond and he takes such pride in his work."

ST. PETERS, Mo. — At Fairmount Elementary in St. Peters, Missouri, it's not so easy being clean.

"The school is really big," said third grader Harper Harris.

Really big. In fact, with over 1,000 students, it's the biggest elementary school in the state of Missouri, which presents a lot of challenges.

"A big one is the cleaning," Assistant Principal Tracey McAllister said. "A school this large with as many classrooms as we have, plus multiple gyms and a café that has to feed over 200 kids each lunch shift, it gets pretty messy."

And it's Ed Bober's job to give the school a little sparkle.

Any custodian can clean a classroom, but Bober knows the corners.

"He's just amazing," second grade teacher Brittany Booth said. "He goes above and beyond, and he takes such pride in his work."

Though, he works at night, "Mr. Ed," as he's called around the school, will often see the kids at the top of his shift. And often, it's the highlight of his day.

"It brings some enjoyment into the job," said Bober. "It's fun to relate to and associate with the kids."

And he doesn't just pick up the trash. He likes to build up the students.

"Like leaving special notes for the class or writing a note on the whiteboard like 'Good luck on your test tomorrow!'" McAllister said.

Of course, when kids returned to the classroom after the pandemic, sanitation meant safety. Trouble was, nobody was applying for open jobs and Mr. Ed was one of just two custodians for the entire school.

"And two custodians at night for a school this size, it was going to be impossible," said McAllister.

So, with encouragement from the teachers, at the end of their day, the kids started helping out.

"We erased the board. We made sure our desk was clean. We also stacked the chairs and swept the floor," Harris recalled.

And there was no way Mr. Ed was going to sweep that under the rug. So to thank the kids, he started awarding something he calls the Golden Trash Can. He leaves it out every night in the cleanest classroom.

"He just wanted to get the kids involved and, and make it fun for them," said Booth, smiling.

"You could hear the children talking in the hall," said Bober with a twinkle in his eye.

 "They're so proud that they got the Golden Trash Can. The other class walking by would say, 'we're going to get it tonight!'"

It turned out to be a lesson that didn't come from a textbook. When you help others, you help yourself.

"If all the classrooms in the school were dirty, it would be like really stinky," Harris said.

Now that he's got a full staff, Mr. Ed is making a clean getaway. He's hanging up his mop for good in a few weeks, even though almost everyone at Fairmount has begged him to stay.

"It touches my heart it sure does," Bober said.

Head Custodian Ed Bober, showing us all, it's always time to shine.

"We definitely will miss him," said McAllister.

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