BEDFORD--Taking care of the Bedford Science & Technology Center is not just part of Barry Calloway’s job. It’s part of his family’s history.
“My grandfather was a custodian here,” said Calloway, who teaches BSTC’s Building Management program and serves as one of the school’s administrators. “My father was a custodian here too, and I can remember playing on the bleachers here at night while he cleaned. I have some history with this building.”
Before he started teaching in 2000, Calloway joined BSTC’s staff as a custodian in 1982 and became the school’s head custodian in 1990. As a third-generation caretaker of the facility, Calloway takes pride in maintaining the school that was constructed in 1953.
The Bedford Science & Technology Center is a career and technical school serving students enrolled at Liberty, Jefferson Forest and Staunton River high schools. It was the Susie G. Gibson High School from 1953 until 1970 when the career and technical center was established. The school serves about 300 students enrolled in 15 different programs including building management, culinary arts, automotive technology and building construction.
“It’s a personal point of pride to make sure it always looks its best,” Calloway said. “This may be one of the older schools in Bedford County, but I think it’s one of the best kept schools in Bedford County or any county.”
Calloway — who was BSTC’s teacher of the year in 2010 — has been selected as the 2019 Virginia Association of Trade and Industrial Educators (VATIE) Teacher of the Year.
The award is given to a Virginia secondary school trade and industrial education teacher who excels at teaching students in the classroom and laboratory as well as making contributions to the field at all levels, including local and state involvement. Calloway received the award at the July VATIE conference in Norfolk.
“I was shocked to receive the award, and it was an honor,” Calloway said. “I am very appreciative, but it’s not what I look for. If I am doing my job right, then the work my students are doing speaks for itself.”
BSTC Principal Kim Halterman said the work Calloway’s students do “is hard to miss” throughout the school’s campus.
“It’s like having two full-time custodial staffs,” Halterman said. “Barry is an amazing teacher and has a way of inspiring students to take pride in their work. They take great pride in what they do to preserve the history of this school.”
Halterman said Calloway “knows every inch of this school” after 37 years and knows what it takes to maintain the facility.
“He probably knows this building better than anyone,” Halterman said. “You couldn’t find someone more dedicated to this school’s upkeep.”
Calloway said he uses the entire school as a classroom so the 20 students in his program get plenty of hands-on experience in maintaining a facility.
“I think what surprises a lot of students is how many different things are involved in building management,” he said. “People sometimes have the impression that this is about learning how to sweep and mop floors. That is only a small part of the job. My students learn about landscaping, carpentry, plumbing and electrical work.
“We do whatever needs to be done to make sure this building looks as good as it can look and is safe for people to occupy,” Calloway said. “That’s what this job is about and not everyone can do it.”
Calloway said many of his students are hired by Bedford County Public Schools after they graduate from the program.
“A lot of the students have the opportunity to do work internships at schools in the county,” Calloway said. “The schools usually tell us they want them back after graduation. I had one student that was hired after he turned 18 and was working full time while he was finishing his senior year. He would go to school during the day and then go straight to work.”
“That’s what we want to encourage,” he said. “These kids can go straight into a job making between $30,000 and $40,000 a year and make a good, honest living with no debt.”
While many of the program’s students go into custodial work after graduation, Calloway said the skills students learn in his program are applicable to almost any career.
“I’m not interested in whether or not the students go into building management,” Calloway said. “I’m more concerned that they leave here ready to become good employees and people that give back to the community. I just want them to do their best work in any career they go into.”
Staunton River High School senior Joseph Baublitz, who plans to work as a diesel mechanic after graduation, said Calloway has helped prepare him for the workforce.
“I was doing some landscaping work and I was drawn to the program because that was a part of it,” Baublitz said. “But I learned so much more. I think the biggest thing I have learned is making sure to do a job right every time no matter what it is.”
David Pennix said the program has taught him independence, something he said no other curriculum at Jefferson Forest High School could provide.
“I wasn’t sure how I felt about building management at first,” Pennix said. “But before long, I learned that fixing things is much simpler than people make it out to be. I realized that I could do these things for myself at home, and it’s a good feeling when you don’t have to call or ask somebody to do things for you that you have learned to do for yourself.”
Pennix competed in the state’s SkillsUSA competition last year and won second place at both the regional and state levels. He lost the first place spot — to fellow BSTC student Devon Smith — by less than a point.
“I lost by .68 points,” Pennix said. “That really lit a fire under me, and I really fell in love with competing. Mr. Calloway really taught me what it means to take pride in what I want to do, and it was good to be around a lot of other people in the same field. I’m shooting for gold this year.”
BSTC’s Building Management program has produced a first-place winner in the state’s SkillsUSA competition for the past five years, Calloway said.
“We are very proud of that but it’s not as important to me as just knowing they are always doing their best work,” Calloway said. “I’m just as proud that they do a job that they are always willing to sign their name to.”
Pennix and his fellow students will not have to go far to compete in this year’s SkillsUSA competition — BSTC is hosting the regional event in February. Calloway said he and his students will make sure the school is ready to host visitors from 22 different school divisions.
“We will have everything ready,” Calloway said. “I love this building and I’m going to make sure it’s always in good hands.”