“I need these kids more than they need me.”
Mike Webb says this often. The students, teachers, and parents at Walls Elementary School disagree. Their nomination earned him “2019 DeSoto County Schools Parent of the Year.”
“Cowboy Mike” or “Pawpaw” are two names he is called because he is rarely seen without his cowboy hat. He is the grandfather to third-grade student Brylee and sixth-grade student, Parker. Shauna Gardner, his daughter, is the math/science specialist at Walls Elementary.
Webb founded Walls Elementary School’s PTA in 2011 when his grandson was in the first grade. Their organization now has 130 members.
This year, the PTA has raised more than $72,000 for the school. These funds have stocked the Parent Resource Room, provided free books for students, established a clothes closet, organized a Health Fair for families that attracted 1,500 participants, paid for field trips, hosted a Veteran’s Day event, sponsored the Daddy/Daughter Dance for 300 dads and their daughters, and paid for a Field Day at the end of the school year.
He has led toy drives, canned food drives, spearheaded landscaping projects and helped pay for playground equipment.
“Mr. Webb is one of the first people at school every morning,” said fourth-grade teacher Toni Glass. “He is there to make sure the teachers have free coffee and breakfast items available. He provides incentives for good behavior in my classroom and supplies for students who do not have them. Whatever a child needs, Mr. Webb is there to make sure the child gets it, often with no recognition for himself.”
Webb said he had serious complications from diabetes in 2007 that caused him to lose his right foot and left leg. Doctors told him he would never walk again, but by 2008, he was walking.
A phone call from former Walls Elementary principal Rebecca Kelley gave him added incentive. She told him she really needed a volunteer to run the Parent Resource Room and launch a PTA that would support the vision she had for her school.
“I could not sit at home,” Webb said. “My health ended my food service career. For the working world, I was a broken down cowboy. But for these kids, I have become John Wayne.”
Kindergarten teacher Jamie Branning said, “Mr. Mike loves the smiles on all of the faces of our students. To many of these students, he is the closest thing to a grandparent they will have.”
“He works very hard to make sure our students and teachers have fun, and have what they need to be successful,” said current principal Erica Armstrong. “His goal is to make our school shine. We truly appreciate his many acts of kindness and thoughtfulness.”
Fourth grade teacher Marsha Morgan added, “Mr. Mike plans many school activities that provide opportunities to bridge the school with the surrounding community. These events provide our students and their families with experiences and memories that they will always cherish. His devotion and love for Walls Elementary cannot be measured.”
Katherine Nelson is Director of Communications for DeSoto County Schools