Substitute teacher leaves lasting impression on BV

Caitlin Holland, Editor-in-Chief

His presence was felt in the classroom as well as outside of it.

He spent 16 years establishing himself in the Blue Valley community as a teacher, friend and stadium manager.

Building substitute Pollard Caldwell passed away Nov. 12 after a two-year struggle with cancer.

Caldwell continued to teach and stay active in the community while undergoing treatment for the disease.

Principal Scott Bacon said Caldwell’s dedication to BV was evident because he kept returning to school day after day, even while sick.

“That demonstrates a tremendous degree of commitment,” Bacon said. “Life isn’t about him, it was about serving others. To me, that typifies a very unselfish person.”

Bacon said Caldwell always was ready to help out around school and interact with students. He said it was apparent that students enjoyed having Caldwell in their classrooms and in the building.

“He had a demeanor kids appreciated,” he said. “He was a good listener, and if there was an event, he was probably at it.”

Athletic Director Bob Whitehead said from the beginning of his time at BV, Caldwell was always looking for ways to contribute around school. He would bus students to sports practices, help choir director Marsha Moeller set up risers on the stage in the PAC and manage the officials at football games.

Whitehead said Caldwell had a love for BV unmatched by many. When Caldwell met with Bacon and Whitehead two years ago and told them about his diagnosis, he said he wanted to continue working here as long as he possibly could.

“He said, ‘The thing that keeps me going is the ability to come here and work at Blue Valley High School,’” Whitehead said. “He said, ‘I love this school.’”

Whitehead said Caldwell had a selfless personality and had the best interest of students at heart. Whitehead said even after his diagnosis, Caldwell did his best to keep the students and his job his top priorities.

“He never wanted people to know,” Whitehead said. “He was afraid they would feel sorry for him. He never once in the two years he battled that cancer ever complained or whined to me.”

Caldwell’s fellow building sub Deb Harris said he was a very private person who cared a lot about BV and it’s students.

“When I first started as a building sub 10 years ago, I remember even before that, my daughters telling me he knew every one of the kids’ names,” she said. “At one time he knew them and who had brothers and sisters here. That was phenomenal.”

Harris, who serves on the Substitute Council, said she and Caldwell would occasionally discuss suggestions to present to the board. They would also joke about the stresses of their job in a tough economy.

“It would be harder to get jobs and they would cut back, so we’d share, ‘Do you have a job this week?’ ‘How many jobs do you have?’” she said.

Harris said she recalls one student who Caldwell affected profoundly.

“When I first started subbing here, I remember one young woman who told me he literally saved her life,” she said. “I think she was contemplating suicide, and he sat down and talked to her and listened to her. She felt very strongly that he saved her life. And I thought that was very impressive.”

Harris, who did not know about Caldwell’s struggle with cancer until a year ago, said it was in his reserved nature to not discuss it with many people. She said it was not until she saw him physically worn out that she knew he had cancer.

“This fall, I would see him in the parking lot and his head would be down on the top of his car,” Harris said. “You could just see him trying to gather up the strength to come back for one more day.”

She said coming to Blue Valley every day helped Caldwell get through many difficult moments.

“People need certain things to keep them going,” she said. “I think this was that thing that kept him going.”