Society

Gabe Sonnier Goes From Janitor To Teacher To Principal At Port Barre Elementary

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A Port Barre, La., man knows exactly where hard work and determination can take you.

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Port Barre Elementary principal Gabe Sonnier said in an interview with CBS Evening News. Though he’s new to the position, he is no stranger to the school. He began working there as a janitor.

In fact, Sonnier’s career journey from janitor to teacher to now principal has spanned more than 30 years.

When he was the school janitor in 1985, the principal at the time, Westley Jones, pulled him aside one day.

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“He said, ‘I’d rather see you grading papers than picking them up,’” Sonnier said. “I took it to heart.”

At the age of 39, Sonnier was either cleaning classrooms or studying in them to get his teaching degree.

“I would get to school at 5 a.m. and then leave at 7 a.m. to get to LSU-Eunice,” Sonnier told the Advocate earlier this year. “After classes, I would come back at 8:30 p.m. and work the rest of my hours, usually until around midnight. Then I would go home and do homework and get two or three hours of sleep.”

Shortly after graduating in 2008, Sonnier got his first teaching job. He then decided to go for a Master’s of Science and Education from Arkansas State University.

It might have taken a while, but Sonnier believes his journey shows hard work does pay off.

“Don’t let your situation that you’re in now define what you’re going to become later,” he said.

He admitted he may still not be done moving up the ranks in the education system and would welcome the idea of becoming superintendent one day.

Even though it’s been years since people could call him janitor, Sonnier still cleans his own office.

Sources: CBS Evening News, The Advocate