Mustafa Ocanavic wears a lot of hats at Boise’s Taft Elementary School – custodian, counselor, cafeteria DJ, student safety monitor, mentor and friend.
But most people at the Idaho elementary simply refer to Ocanavic as the “heart” of Taft, where he’s worked as a custodian for the last 11 years.
Ocanavic was born in Bosnia but moved to the U.S. and gained American citizenship before landing his school job. Since that time, he’s worked to treat the students and staff at Taft as “family,” and his efforts have not gone unnoticed, KTVB reports.
“This person greets a lot of you every morning when you come in before school,” Principal Tim Lowe told students who recently gathered in the cafeteria for a special ceremony for “Mr. Mustafa.” “This is our chance to tell Mustafa thank you, so give him a big round of applause.”
Mustafa demonstrates the moral influence of an involved adult in the lives of students. Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture argue that case studies consistently show “the importance of the informal articulation of a moral culture through the example of teachers and other adults in the school community.” Mustafa's involvement with the students consistently showed care, safety, and fun. It is a winning combination born from his past struggles.
“I come from a very troubled area of Bosnia, … and I found a new home and I am thankful for this,” Ocanavic told students. “And you guys my family.”
Lowe told the news site Ocanavic’s background as an immigrant with military experience has fit well with students and staff at Taft.
“We have an awful lot of families that struggle for a lot of reasons,” Lowe said. “The fact that he was an immigrant himself, he has a special understanding of a lot of our kids who come here from different countries and what it’s like to learn a new language and to be immersed in American culture.”
Ocanavic is also “a significant part of making sure Taft is a safe school, and these days it’s such an important issue,” Lowe said. “He has a military background that he applies every day here and he is really a stickler.”
Ocanavic said he goes out of his way to help students simply because it’s the right thing to do.
“I try to help those kids,” he said. “It’s not in my job description but I put myself in that position, those kids need help, talk.”
Ocanavic said he also enjoyes playing music for kids at lunch on Fridays, when he become his alter-ego, “DJ Moose.”
“The kids love it and we like to dance – first eat – then dance a little bit,” he said.
Teachers and principals working to strengthen moral and citizenship formation in their students can find information and strategies at the UK's The Jubilee Centre. In The Jubilee Centre's own words, the following illustrates how the Centre views its work. "The Jubilee Centre is a pioneering interdisciplinary research centre on character, virtues and values in the interest of human flourishing. The Centre is a leading informant on policy and practice through its extensive range of projects contributes to a renewal of character virtues in both individuals and society."