NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Before any of the children awake, Eakin Elementary School custodian Sam Wordlaw starts his day.
He turns off the alarm and turns on the lights around 5:30 every morning. And he sticks to a strict schedule. He has to - he's the only custodian cleaning up after 600 kids.
"It's the same thing every day," he said, "check bathrooms, check floors."
"(He) does it by himself without complaining, every day," said Principal Tim Drinkwine.
Wordlaw may not speak much, but his actions speak volumes for themselves. He regularly helps with feeding all the children and cleans up after them when they get sick.
"I love the kids, they're fun," Wordlaw said, "I like seeing them smile."
Emotions are mixed on Thursday, which is also Wordlaw's last day.
His feet have walked miles in the halls. But it was his hands that finally had enough. He needs surgery and months of recovery time.
"I've been working with a broken bone thinking it was carpal tunnel, didn't realize it," he said, showing a brace on each hand, one for his broken bone and one for carpal tunnel.
He says after 31 years, his injury finally led him to retire.
"We love you! We are going to miss you dearly," a teacher came up to hug Wordlaw in the cafeteria as her class walked in.
Each student high-fived him and handed him cards they made themselves, filled with thank yous and goodbyes.
"He's a shining light in a world that needs that," Prinicpal Drinkwine said.
Surprised by the cards and the extra attention from the kids, a quiet Wordlaw appears a little overcome with emotion.
"Oh I love it, I'm gonna miss it," he said, looking at the children. With more than 30 years of memories at Metro Schools, he walks out Thursday with a smile.
And a promise to come back to visit everyone soon.
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