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Man goes from janitor to school principal

Man Goes from Janitor to School Principal

Joseph 'Gabe' Sonnier seems at home as the principal of Port Barre Elementary School, but the story of how he got there is an unusual one. CBS reports that he used to be a janitor at the school. It all began back in 1985, when he was pulled aside by the current principal Westley Jones.

'He said 'I'd rather see you grading papers,'' Sonnier said. 'I took it to heart.'

At 39, Sonnier studied when he wasn't working.

Last November, he proudly became principal. One WJXT anchor said Sonnier is a living example of perseverance.

'He had dropped out of Southern University in 1979 to help his mother make ends meet. He never gave up. The new principal said he's still in awe of all his accomplishments, and it was that one opportunity,' WJXT reported.

The Advocate explains Sonnier would work from 5-7 in the morning, then go to classes. After that, he'd come back and put in the rest of his hours as a janitor. Then, he'd do homework and get a few hours of sleep. This was all on top of having a family!

Sonnier says it's not about where you start, but where you finish -- and he might not be finished yet: there's still that superintendent position he can shoot for. Oh, and Sonnier still cleans his own office.

Join the discussion

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cedatty February 13 2014 at 3:02 PM

Great story. Well deserved. Yhe American dream is alive and well.

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N68Firebird February 13 2014 at 4:17 PM

Initiative, forming a goal to keep in mind, and persevering until that goal is met...no one can give that to an individual, especially not the government. It has to come from within.

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is that you? February 13 2014 at 4:52 PM

Great story. Achievement through perseverance. Let's not miss the character of the principal who encouraged him.

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LACASSE February 13 2014 at 4:57 PM


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emberbb February 13 2014 at 4:59 PM

What a beautiful story. Now this is what I like to read about more often, then Bieber or other junk.

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1 reply
joe_larock emberbb February 13 2014 at 11:21 PM


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anna February 13 2014 at 6:00 PM

I went back to school at 44 in nursing.I applaud Mr Sonnier and I am from Louisiana.

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revivalman February 13 2014 at 6:30 PM

Congratulations Mr. Sonnier! He has every right to feel incredibly proud. Most people don't have that level of desire and will-power.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
shirley.butterfield February 13 2014 at 6:40 PM

Mr. Sonnier is a wonderful inspiration to the students of Port Barre Elementary School.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
gudtip February 13 2014 at 6:45 PM

God Bless Him, he worked his way up to the top. and anyone that works hard at, can make and become almost anything he/she wants to be.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
Hello Jay February 13 2014 at 4:12 PM


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