‘It’s what I want to do every single day’

Bates library clerk keeps going at 85, after 56 years working and volunteering in schools

October 26, 2021 – After 56 years working and volunteering for Jefferson County Public Schools, Betty Breeding admits there have been times when she’s thought, “maybe I don’t want to do this every day.” Then the pandemic hit, forcing school doors to close and students to learn remotely. Breeding, who’s served as an elementary media clerk at Bates Elementary School for the past 16 years, discovered first hand what it would be like to not be around kids and colleagues every week.

“I thought, ‘Oh no, this is not for me.’”

Media Clerk Betty Breeding helps students check out books

As Breeding – or Ms. Betty, as her students and coworkers call her – prepares to celebrate her 85th birthday on October 27th, making her the most senior employee in the district, she’s matter-of-fact about what the milestone means:

“It means God’s given me another day to make a difference in this building,” Breeding said.

Breeding volunteered at her children’s schools for 20 years until she said she decided, if she was going to spend all her time in their buildings, she might as well get paid for it. Over the next 36 years she’s worked at a number of JCPS schools in different roles, before landing back at Bates, where she once volunteered. She even claims some responsibility for Bates still being around. During the 1970s when her children attended the elementary school, there was a move afoot to close Bates, she said. But as PTA president, she got a committee together to fight for it to remain open, and the rest is history.

At Bates, where she’s described by the principal as the “heartbeat of the building,” that connection today is as strong as ever.

“The feeling in this building is not like in all schools,” she said, tearing up. “It’s just a great place to be.”

“It’s a warm, welcoming building,” she added. “And the staff is fantastic. Every teacher here is truly devoted to teaching and their children achieving.”

The feeling is mutual.

“A kid can be having a bad day and all it takes is a hug from her to make the day better for them,” said Bates Librarian Laura Beth Akers.

Breeding said despite her milestone birthday, she has no plans to slow her pace. And as for taking a break from Bates? Not a chance.

“I love it.  It’s what I want to do every single day,” she said, tears welling in her eyes again. “It’s not a job to me.”

“I would probably be up here if I were not getting a paycheck every other week.”