Kindergarteners surprise deaf school custodian by signing 'Happy Birthday'

School custodians don’t get the recognition they deserve. Yes, they clean up a classroom after students and teachers have left and ensure that the cafeteria is ready to go for every lunch period, but few student realize the true extent of their responsibilities.

Custodians are there before the doors open and are there long after the students go home. They clean up after concerts, wax floors after summer school, and set up chairs for graduation.

It wouldn’t be surprising at all if you could remember your favorite teacher’s name years later, while few probably know the names of the custodians who have helped take care of their school for years. But these students in Tennessee sure do.

James Anthony, known around school as “Mr. James,” is a custodian at Hickerson Elementary School in Tullahoma, Tenn., and is more than a role model for the students — he’s a friend and an educator. He is deaf, and he can often be seen teaching students how to sign.

The custodian, who has worked for the school for 15 years, and has worked for the school district for 30 years, was invited into a kindergarten class by Allyssa Hartsfield, Amy Hershman, and school nurse Angela on his 60th birthday.

To his surprise, the three adults and the kindergarteners signed the song “Happy Birthday” on his big day on Tuesday.

“Mr. James teaches the kids sign language every now and then, teaches them good manners and how to treat other people,” principal Jimmy Anderson, who describes Mr. James as a role model, told Fox 17 in Nashville.

The effort the students put into learning how to sign “Happy Birthday,” just for him, “touched his heart,” the custodian said.

Anthony is a man who seems to genuinely enjoy his job. Erica Swanson Fulks wrote on Facebook, “Mr. James was the custodian at the high school when I was in school. He never missed one of our basketball games — one of our biggest fans! We all love Mr. James!”

Holly Evett Williams commented, “He still is at every single game and some of the practices to this day!"

And Matthew Shapourian added, “He gave me some basketball shoes at Coffee County High School to wear during a summer basketball camp in 2001. I was 16. I remember not knowing why he was letting me have them. He asked me what size I wore and still have not forgotten his generosity.”

LeAnne Combs Evans summed it up best: “James Anthony is one of the kindest and caring school employee that I have ever worked with!!! I am so glad this class learned sign language to give him the best birthday wish ever!! You are love[d] James by everyone!!”'

Celebrity back-to-school pictures:

Celebrity kids' back-to-school pics
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Celebrity kids' back-to-school pics
And they’re off! ❤️ #firstgrader #prekindergarten #backtoschool ✏️📚
first week of school 😩 they had us make a little family photo album she can look at when she’s sad or upset. she loves it. my heart ksosksodododosksidojsjskodmskzh

And the last of the fold. Our brunette. The "baby" embarking on her first day of 4th grade. Small but mighty, her knapsack prepared days ago, she take long strides toward a whole new year awaiting you Tabitha. X, mama

Sarah Jessica Parker's daughters, Tabitha and Marion, are rocking Parkland's new sustainable backpacks on the first day of school! 

One day away from this boy’s first day of kindergarten 😢 #ACEKNUTE
Yes. I cried!! She went happily! I have two kiddos in school. Where has the time gone?! 😭☺️Photo credit @adamhousley
This was yesterday! Feels like school never ended...and they’re already back! #SeniorYear 😳😳 #EighthGrade #ProudMom ❤️
Can’t believe my little guy Finn is a big man starting kindergarten at his new school. He’s so excited to join his older brother and sisters! . This week Finn is on his new campus doing a Kindergarten prep camp. Having a great time meeting all his new friends... . As a working mom of 5 kiddos I have to say that working my beauty business aka my “side gig” has truly given me back moments I would be missing if I was working on set filming, at a photo shoot, or in the office. #mommoments can’t be recreated so with this biz I get to mom hard and boss babe hard at the same time. If you want that freedom too join my #girlempowermentgang and goto ... . And, you can check out all my curated beauty products at PS~ #powerlips are my jam! Long wearing not drying liquid lips. I’m wearing confidence in this pic (and it’s also the name of the color 👄) . #bossbabe #teamtori #beauty #workingmom #momhard #beautybiz #team90210💋 📷by @liamaaronmcdermott2724
Nerd alert!!! The team Shepard loves school!! 🤓🤓🤓
Welp! He did it. And with flying colors. The excitement in his eyes made my heart melt. What a lovely and caring soul this one is. He couldn’t wait to meet all his new friends. He simply gave mommy and daddy a kiss and said: “Goodbye Mom and Dad. Love you.” Me on the other hand, I had to hold back the tears. 😭
And just like that... 1st grade 😩😭 heart be still. My big girl! 😍
Back to school!!!
Dropping them off is never easy. Even harder when it’s on the other coast. 🏒 @levvbure
Kissed my babies and sent them off to 3rd and 5th grade!! How did they get so BIG?! 😩 #momlife #firstdayofschool📝🍎📚
Someone is excited for his first day of school next week. Getting all our goodies set including some of our family favorites like @zolidays @babytula @avery #minions and keep it all organized with @mabelslabels. Love to have some @itzyritzy zipper bags on hand instead of plastic bags for loose snacks to keep on our #plasticfreejuly kick in August! Thanks @ggbenitezprinc & @marquecomm!!
First day of school for these two delicious dishes! I don’t know why but watching them get on the bus and drive away always makes me cry a little. Then the bus pulls out of sight, I dry my eyes, pour myself a big glass of champagne and shout “ CHEERS TO SEVEN WHOLE HOURS WITH ONLY ONE KID NEEDING MY ATTENTION!!” 🥂 Speaking of needing my attention, up now on the blog is a post on the #hideawayplacespace I created for the girls. It’s got a bit of a Harry Potter “cupboard under the stairs” vibe and they love it! Hit the link in my bio if you’re looking for a creative and inexpensive way to keep your kids entertained and look like a hero all at the same time. #thoseheavenlydays #jcrewcuts for our first day of school tradition of new outfits.
5th grade 😞🍎✏️📚♥️

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