Faculty and staff at R.E. Davis Elementary School describe Icybell Lowery as a "bridge from the school to the community." Lowery manages the school's computer lab, drives a Sumter School District bus and, for 37 years, has called the school her home.
Her passion and work ethic for the school and children go "above and beyond" her official job duties, said Michelle McBride, school principal.
"She is an extremely dedicated, hard-working and unbelievable person," McBride said. "She knows the name of nearly each student at the school, knows where most of the students live on the bus routes and has a positive relationship with the children's parents as well. She also makes decorations for the school during many special events."
The school has an enrollment of about 290 students, pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, and Lowery teaches most of them once a week in her computer lab class.
Through the years, Lowery, a Lynchburg native, has taught children who are now adults, their children and their grandchildren. She has served under nine principals and four superintendents. She describes herself as an energetic person who likes to keep moving.
"If you love doing something, the money doesn't matter as much," she said. "Whether it's driving the bus or motivating the children in the computer lab, I'm hoping to make a difference in a child's life and value the relationship we build."
Lowery said she typically wakes up at 4 a.m. and by 5:30 a.m. starts her school bus route. She greets each child and asks the children how their morning is going. When she drops the children off the bus in the afternoon, she makes sure each child gets a high five.
"She is the bridge from the school to the community," said Latanya Ravenell, school counselor. "Many people in the community know her and admire the way she cares for the children."
Lowery said she fell into the education field accidentally.
She is the daughter of Luella and the late Robert Dickey and grew up on a farm, the second-oldest of five brothers and four sisters.
She attended Morris College and Coker College, where she majored in education.
She was working with her parents, who were sharecroppers on a farm, when a family friend told her about an opening at R.E. Davis. Lowery took the job, starting out as a part-time study hall assistant.
Through the years, she has also served as an attendance clerk and in-school suspension clerk, filled in as a school nurse and as an aide to a disabled student, among other roles.
In the early days of her career, she also coached boys' recreational basketball at the school and her church, St. Peter AME Church in Mayesville. She would often drive students to compete in tournaments throughout the state.
"I feel that you have to put energy into something you enjoy and keep moving," she said. "I'm here to hopefully have an impact on the students. I really enjoy working with children both in the schools and in the community."
Zavion Brailey, a third-grade student at the school, said Lowery always makes sure the students are doing their best.
"She's intelligent and confident," Zavion said.
Joe Bostick, another third-grade student, said she is always willing to help the students.
Lowery said there have been many changes since she began working in the school in 1976, but the school atmosphere has remained the same.
What today is an elementary and middle school back then was one school, with the elementary school serving students in grades first through eighth. There were no computers back then, all work was done on typewriters, and typewriting classes were only available at the high school level. Today, many elementary school students have laptops in the classroom.
Lowery said she's not planning to retire any time soon.
"Everyone should have a job that they love," she said.
Lowery has also served as a role model for others.
Ethel Brailey first met Lowery when she was a seventh-grade student at R.E. Davis. Lowery served as her study hall teacher. Brailey later served with her as a fellow school bus driver.
"She was honest, dependable and very punctual," Brailey said. "I looked up to her as a role model."
Angela Tomlin-Hart, instructional coach, said Lowery has always been helpful and supportive.
"She knows everything about the school and will assist in pointing you to the right resources," Tomlin-Hart said.
Marlee Wells, school nurse, said Lowery loves the students and will do everything she can to make them feel welcome.
Frank Baker, Sumter School District superintendent, said Lowery is a great asset to the district.
"At R.E. Davis, she works so well with students and teachers. The students look forward to going to her computer lab. Besides driving her own bus route, she is always willing to help with routing, finding substitute drivers and covering routes when other drivers are out," Baker said. "She also deals very well with parents. She will do anything she can to contribute to the district. Mrs. Lowery is just a sweet person and a great ambassador for the district."
Marcela Rodriguez, school attendance clerk, said Lowery loves the students and staff and treats them all the same.
"She is always willing to help and is respectful to everyone," she said.
Lowery is married to Reynold Lowery, and they have four children, Dwayne Dickey, Kendrick Geddis, Lamont Geddis and Gloria Geddis, and 19 grandchildren.