top of page

From Janitor to Principal

Gabe Sonnier always planned to go to college after high school. However, due to family circumstances he couldn’t continue his education. However, read on, this story is a wonderful one of perseverance.

Gabe Sonnier and some of his pupils punching the air.

After taking various jobs, he started work as a janitor at Port Barre Elementary School in Port Barre, Louisiana. One day, the school principal, Wesley Jones, had a chat with Sonnier. “I think you’d benefit the students better as an educator. I'd rather see you grading papers than picking them up,” the principal told him. Nobody had ever believed in him that much before, so Sonnier took his advice and went back to school while working full-time.

So, at the age of 39, whenever he wasn’t cleaning classrooms, he was studying in them.

His strenuous efforts paid off. He graduated with an associate’s degree in 2006 from Louisiana State University Eunice, and in 2008, he received his bachelor’s degree at the University of Louisiana. Then he went for a master’s degree at the same university.

Years later, Sonnier is now principal at the same school he had worked as a janitor for 27 years.

Despite all the degrees and the new job, Gabe Sonnier hasn’t forgotten where he came from. Believe it or not, he still cleans his own office. Obviously, you can take the janitor out of the mop room, but you can't take the work ethic out of the janitor.

And there's a lesson in there for boys and girls and grown-ups everywhere.

"Don't let your situation that you're in now define what you're going to become later," Mr. Sonnier said. "I always tell them it's not where you start, it's how you finish."


bottom of page