Students return encouragement to cancer-stricken janitor

BLACKFOOT — Blackfoot High students got to pick a speaker for their annual homecoming assembly.

They didn’t ask an athlete, business leader or community member.

They asked their janitor.

School custodian Steve Bishop delivered the annual pep talk to students during Blackfoot High School’s homecoming assembly, and his speech had them spellbound.


He spoke of his fight with cancer — he’s had it twice now — and he called them his heroes.

“My doctor says, ‘why are you still going to work?'” Bishop told students during the assembly. “I said, ‘it’s the kids’ — you are my heroes.”

Bishop’s close relationship with the students began four years ago, when he started leaving them notes on the chalkboards. His supportive words would greet students in the morning. 

“It really does mean a lot to us to have that kind of encouragement,” said senior Chloe Anderson. 

Bishop said: “I’m just trying to help them realize that they’re not alone.”

Bishop’s time at the school was nearly cut in half last year after he suffered a heart attack. Hospital tests showed that he had more than a heart condition. Cancer had crept back into his body — for the second time in two decades.steve-bishop6

Eight years earlier, Bishop had ended a lengthy struggle with prostate cancer.

“It was hard to learn that I had cancer again,” he said, “but I just knew that I had to step up and overcome it again.”

When students learned of Bishop’s situation, they stepped in. Senior Erika German organized a binder and started collecting notes of encouragement for him.

Last week, he thumbed through that binder with a smile.

Bishop is still fighting lung cancer, though he says the students at Blackfoot High School give him all the encouragement he needs to beat it again.

Principal Roger Thomas said everyone in the building has something to learn from Bishop’s interaction with kids.

“That’s what you want to see in anyone you hire — people who go above and beyond their regular duties, and Steve does just that,” said Thomas.


Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

Devin was formerly a senior reporter and editor for Idaho Education News and now works for INL in communications.

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