While teachers play an integral role in the school system, it truly does take an army to raise a child. One Barbourville Independent custodian has made it his life goal to see his students reach their full potential.
Michael Branstutter, a Knox County native, has worked at BIS as a custodian for 15 years. Reflecting on his own time as a student, Branstutter admits all he could think about was getting out of school. Little did he know, he would later work in a school district.
“I wasn’t a very good student, just to be honest,” said Branstutter. “I wasn’t a trouble maker. School work just didn’t interest me.”
Although Branstutter was admittedly not the best student, as a school employee and father, he makes it his priority each day to inspire BIS students to set goals and achieve their dreams.
“There was a student who was staying after school one day. He was doing his math homework. He said, ‘I am just going to guess at this,” recalled Branstutter. “I said, ‘You know what, that’s what I used to do.’ I was sweeping the room and I showed him my broom and said, ‘This is what guessing gets you. You need to try your hardest or you’ll have a more mediocre job.’ He just looked at me and finished his work.”
“I try to talk to kids and tell them to do their best. I want them to do better than I did for myself,” continued Branstutter. “Now, I see that it’s important since I’ve got two daughters of my own. I want them to do better than I did.”
Branstutter’s work at BIS is far from mediocre, though. Branstutter works from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each week day. Along with working as a substitute bus driver when needed, Branstutter cleans the board office, cafeteria and does the mowing and general upkeep of the grounds. If something needs moved during the day, Branstutter is one of the first to respond and help out. He delivers mail and cleans up any accidents across the campus. Once school dismisses, Branstutter is responsible for cleaning an area of the elementary school building each day. Without Branstutter’s dedication to his job, BIS would not function as smoothly as it currently does.
“It’s a rewarding job,” said Branstutter. “Even though I’m a custodian, no one’s ever been disrespectful to me. Everybody is on the same level…With a smaller school, you’re closer. You know everyone and their family and they know yours…We do this for the kids. No one would be here if it wasn’t for the kids.”