SEMMES, Ala. (WKRG) — It’s been a few years since Tony Guardalabene (pronounced: Qualabean) found his way to Semmes Middle School.  It happened after Hurricane Katrina devastated his home in New Orleans.

“Taught and coached in New Orleans.  And everything we had was destroyed. And we came to Mobile–decided to stay–and they’ve been very welcoming and couldn’t have ended up at a better place,” he said.

Now you’ll find the administrator in the hallways, greeting students and teachers with fist bumps–and showing up at literally all school events to cheer on his students.   With forty-nine nominations for the Golden Apple, it’s clear what they think of the man known affectionately as ‘Mr. Bene.’

Students told us, “Because he’s so supportive–like, I run track and he came to all my track meets to support us, like the whole team.”
“He goes to everything and supports us through anything and everything.”
“He’s like everyone’s school dad–he just likes to protect us and stuff.”

And one fellow teacher was behind that load of nominations.

Steven Stanley said, “I did–it was just between me and a few people and we got it rolling to others, and then apparently a lot of people jumped on board.  But he is the greatest administrator, he’s always there for people–he’s at every sporting event I can think of–he’s just the greatest person and I thought he really deserved this. And Mr. Bene is just fine with throwing the love right back.

“I mean anything you ask these guys to do, they do. I mean look at them–you couldn’t ask for a better group of guys, they’re just unbelievable–work hard, do everything the right way,” he said.

They good news—he’s not planning on going anywhere else.

“No way I’m leaving—ever, ever, ever.”

Our congratulations to Tony Guardalabene and Semmes Middle School for a job well done.