Unlikely friendship helps recycling truck driver teach Henrico student lessons beyond the classroom

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- When it’s recess at Maybeury Elementary School in western Henrico, you’ll hear 3rd grader Nils Kastenbaum squeaking away on the swings.   That’s until he hears Mr. Gene pulling up in his Republic Recycling truck. Their unlikely friendship started last year during a normal morning recycling run.

“I saw him over there, jumping and going 'Ahhh!'.  Just jumping; excited about the truck," Mr. Gene recalled.

Teacher Kristin Jones remembered Nils asking her if he could talk to the driver.

"We talked a lot about friendships and people in our community and respecting others”, Ms. Jones said.

It led to the whole class learning another lesson.

"We talked a lot about natural resources," Ms. Jones said.  “We talked a lot about recycling and so Mr. Gene was gracious and provided us with information and lots of books that we brought back to the classroom."

Nils wanted to learn about recycling, but what he really wanted to know about was Mr. Gene’s truck.

On this visit Nils peppered him with questions:

"How much diesel does this take?"
"Why are there two tires in the back?"
"What makes that thing in the back go up?"
"How old do you have to be to drive a truck?"

Nils said he’d like to drive a recycling truck one day.

"When he gets to the age, if he chooses to do that, I'm 100-percent behind him”, Mr. Gene said.

Building Better Minds with Rob Cardwell airs every Wednesday at 6 a.m.

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