STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) – Teachers, undoubtedly, make a huge impact on the lives of students. But at one Stillwater elementary school, the kids all sing the praises of “Mr. Mark,” the school custodian.

With a last name like his, Mark Schooley is a great fit as head custodian at Richmond Elementary School, where he loves the kids just as much as they love him.

“You guys need any help with anything?” Mr. Mark asked table after table of kids in the cafeteria, all of whom appreciate every interaction with him.

“One time I asked him, ‘Do you want to be best buddies?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.'” said third-grader Ethan Goold.

“He’s the best person in school…I can’t explain it, he just does it, it’s magic,” fourth-grader Ethan Janus said of Mr. Mark.

Current students aren’t the only ones who think so highly of Mr. Mark. In fact, his name came up in conversation during a recent get-together with four former students, who are now high school juniors.

“Just remembering how good our childhood was and we eventually got to our elementary and talked about what a great person he was, how he was helpful to all the students,” Addison Snider said.

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Four young women whose lives Mr. Mark has made a difference in.

Her three friends all joined in.

“He would come to my table and cut my pancakes in the morning because I couldn’t do it. And he was like my dad at school, you know?” said Natalie VanDeventer.

“He always carried a keychain on his hip and, in the middle, there was what looked like a button, and we would always ask him to press the button. Well, when he did, bird noises would come out, and it always was so fun for us to listen to it. But then, by the time we left, we learned that he was actually whistling,” said Emma Nelson.

“Currently, my brother is in 3rd grade, and he reached out to my brother to tell me ‘hi’ now, which means a lot to me because he was my favorite,” said Payden Porter.

Even before they were born, 18 years ago, Mr. Mark began sweeping the halls of Richmond, while sweeping kids off their feet with kindness. And that’s why Addison, Natalie, Emma and Payden nominated him for a $400 Pay It 4ward award from First Fidelity Bank.

And with $100 each in hand, the 11th graders walked through Richmond’s doors for the first time since 5th grade.

“Oh my gosh, I’m gonna cry!” Payden said.

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Mr. Mark

The four teens and our news crew made their way to the cafeteria for the big surprise. KFOR’s Heather Holeman had the kids help call in Mr. Mark from the kitchen.

“Kids, on 1-2-3, yell, ‘Mr. Mark!’ Ready?” Heather continued, “1-2-3!” And the booming shout for “Mr. Mark!” that followed brought a confused Mr. Mark straight into the cafeteria.

“Mr. Mark, we have a program called ‘Pay It 4Ward’, Heather said. “And you have been nominated by four previous students who are now 16 and 17 years old because of the impact you had on them years ago. And they have some fond memories and $400 for you.”

“Oh, wow,” Mr. Mark replied, as cheering and applause filled the cafeteria. Then all four girls told him why they were there.

“I need a hug,” said a teary-eyed Payden. “I just want to say thank you for all of the acts of kindness you’ve done for us.”

“Thank you for being so positive and cutting my pancakes for me, and opening my milk, and just being awesome,” Natalie said.

“And you always showed us what true character really was. And I remember all the bird noises you used to make with your keys,” Emma said, as Mark laughed and whistled his famous bird chirps.

“Thank you for coming to work with a smile on your face, always making everyone’s day just a little bit better,” Addison said.

“I love being here and they’re just all great. I’ve seen so many of them come and go, they’re just great kids,” Mr. Mark said, smiling.

“One of the things they remember is that a kid lost his retainer in a trash can and you dug way down deep in that trash can to get it,” Heather said. “Yeah, I’ve done that several times…for several things,” he said.

“Everyone always wanted you at their table,” Emma said. Payden chimed in, “I mean, he was cool!”

“I would untie my shoe and I would be like, ‘Oh, hey, my shoe’s untied. Need help,'” Natalie said, winking.

Mr. Mark says the kids play tricks on him daily, pretending they can’t open their milk, just to get him to their table.

“What do these kids mean to you?” Heather asked. “A bunch,” he said. “They make my whole day and my whole year.”

Mr. Mark – leaving his own mark – and making the lives of so many Richmond kids even richer.

Pay It 4Ward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.