JES custodian uses storytelling to connect with students

JES custodian uses storytelling to connect with students

Johnson Elementary School custodian Ed Cozart knows how to tell a great story.

“I’m an avid storyteller and historian,” Cozart said. “If you’ve been around me long, I am going to tell you a story.”

Cozart’s story at Scott County School District 2 begins nearly 25 years ago when Charles Meyer asked Cozart could substitute for him on Meyer’s bus route. The occasional substitute bus driving led to permanent driving for 12 years, and it even led to a transportation director position for three years.

After driving for more than half of his time at SCSD2, Cozart lost sight in his right eye in 2002. He was able to transfer to a custodian position at Scottsburg High School before moving to Scottsburg Elementary School and ending up at JES for the last six years.

“When you’re a custodian, anything goes,” Cozart said.

The one key element does remain constant in Cozart’s story at SCSD2, especially at JES — the students.

“The kids, you expect them to be children. They’re just fascinating,” Cozart said. “They’re always good for a laugh, a smile, and a hug. They are like my grandchildren to me.”

Each year as a new Kindergarten class kicks off their first year of school and as new students come in to start at JES, Cozart is there to learn their names, to make sure they have a meal to eat during lunch, to encourage them, and to tell them a great story.

“I learn their names. I think it’s important to learn their names. There’s not very many I don’t know who they are or where they live,” the former bus driver said. “…They love to hear a story. Kids still love stories today.”

Many of the stories Cozart tells come from his love of United States and local history. Some of the stories the blue ribbon, two-time winner of the Liar’s Contest at the Indiana State Fair uses come from his experiences with the students during the last two decades. Others come from his personal life as a past mayor of Scottsburg, as an owner-operator of a dry cleaning business, and as a lifelong Scott County resident.

“My wife says I never tell the same story the same way twice,” Cozart said. “All of them are different. It’s just fun.”

Cozart’s love from history spans throughout his life. He is the president and member of the Scott County Historical Society and spends his weekends re-enacting as a local person living in the time period he is help recreating. He does some of his re-enactments for school programs and the Crothersville Pioneer Day.

“I love any U.S. history. I am a member of the Sons of the American Revolution. I usually do pioneer period pieces. I tell stories from other periods, usually ghost stories and humor,” Cozart said. “I never try to be a major person. You have to have the physical resemblance to be a major character. You can’t have a short Abraham Lincoln. The only major character I do is John Honeyman, who was a spy for George Washington.”

Though Cozart only likes to play a townsperson or a bystander in history, he does have a major role in Scottsburg’s history because he served as mayor in the 1980s. His story as a public servant started when he was a student at Scottsburg Elementary School in the 1960s when the first mayor of Scottsburg was elected.

“When I was 5-years-old, I told my grandmother I wanted to be mayor,” Cozart said. “She was very encouraging.”

A few years after graduating from Scottsburg High School, Cozart was elected the mayor from 1983 to 1988.

“I was probably too young. I took everything too personal,” Cozart said about being mayor in his early 20s. “Everyone wants something.”

While he was the mayor, he and his wife owned a dry cleaning business. The opportunity came over lunch one day when Cozart started talking to the dry cleaner. Cozart said his wife was looking for a job, and the dry cleaner had one. After a short time of his wife working at the dry cleaners, the couple was offered the chance to buy the business.

“We bought and kept the business. We worked six days a week for 20 years,” Cozart said.

Although Cozart was a mayor and owned his own business for two decades, he considers working with the students the best job of all.

“There’s no job that’s not important when dealing with people,” Cozart said. “The kids are the best thing. There are great kids out there. Everything we do has an impact.”

In Cozart’s story at SCSD2 and at JES, the students are the main characters and they are the central theme. His dedication and passion for the students are what have made an impact in their lives for the last 25 years. At Scott County School District 2, Cozart’s story is our story. Your story matters. You matter.