Since 1983, Robert "Papaw" Keeling, a retired engineer, has been resident grandfather at Katy Elementary. He volunteers more than 30 hours each week as a mentor for at-risk students, as a tutor for custodians preparing for their GED, as an interpreter for front office staff and as a composer and in-house musician. In addition, Mr. Keeling serves as the maintenance man for anything in need of repair.
Mr. Keeling began his service when his own grandchildren attended Katy Elementary, but continued long past their departure. Because of the diverse population of the school, which includes a high minority population, Mr. Keeling, who speaks several languages, has spent more than a decade tutoring students coping with language barriers.
Known as a "fixer," Mr. Keeling makes repairs, designed needed special equipment and building furnishings for teachers. He designed the "Keeling Ceiling Hanger," a device used by students and teachers to hang displays. He is always available to rearrange furniture, carry heavy items from one classroom to another and escort staff to their cars.
An accomplished musician, Mr. Keeling plays the piano for students and faculty at lunch and provides music for programs. He has also composed a special song for the school, which has been performed at various community functions by both students and faculty. Katy Elementary also has a program that identifies potential school dropouts and Keeling utilizes his grandfatherly influence to help these at-risk children blossom.