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School janitor behind mystery drawings

A brain injury reveals a hidden talent.
Credit: Chad Nelson, KARE
Janitor Myron Peterson works on one of his whiteboard sketches

For days the mystery deepened.

Students and teachers at Christian Heritage Academy showed up for class to find drawings on their whiteboards.

In some rooms cartoon characters stared back at them. In others, religious figures graced their whiteboards - all beautifully sketched with dry erase markers.

“We didn’t know where they came from,” teacher Liya Skladanovskiy said.

It took a few days, but eventually they had their answer. The mystery whiteboard artist was Myron Peterson, the school’s new janitor.

“It’s a blessing to be here,” Myron said an hour before the start of another school day.

Credit: KARE
Myron Peterson, the janitor at Christian Heritage Academy.

In his right hand, Myron clutched a marker as he drew on a classroom whiteboard a picture of a fly fisherman in mid-cast.

For Myron, it’s a blessing to draw – but also a blessing, even, to be able pick up a bucket and mop.

“Yeah,” Myron said, snapping his fingers. “You just never know how your life can change like that.”

It's been two years since Myron crept up I-35 in Burnsville during a snowstorm, driving between buildings for his job as a facilities manager.

Credit: Boyd Huppert, KARE
Myron Peterson holds a drawing of violin, drawn by Myron as therapy following his brain injury.

As Myron waited patiently in traffic, another driver, going too fast, slammed into him.

“I don't really remember much of 2017,” Myron said. “I have a TBI, a traumatic brain injury.”

The janitor job at Christian Heritage Academy that Myron started last fall, is his first attempt to work a regular job since the brain injury sidelined him.

It hasn’t been easy. Daily, Myron battles debilitating headaches. Sometimes the pain is so intense, he calls a family member to drive him home.

But the brain injury also left Myron – once no more than a stick figure doodler – with artistic talent he can’t begin to explain.

Credit: Boyd Huppert, KARE
Yoda, one of Myron Peterson's whiteboard drawings

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“I’ve never taken lessons on this,” Myron said. Just some YouTube videos and the rest, somehow, came naturally.

Myron's physical therapist suggested drawing. The whiteboards at his new job provided the perfect canvas.

“Yeah, it's therapy, that's for sure,” Myron said, as he sketched a picture of Jesus on a classroom whiteboard.

Another room gets a cardinal – and another, hummingbirds.  

“They come in and they get all excited,” says Marcia Budnik about her second-grade students. “'Look who's on our board today!’”

Credit: Boyd Huppert, KARE
A student at Christian Heritage Academy works near one of Myron Peterson's drawings

Skladanovskiy, the school’s language arts teacher, still talks about the day she noticed an extra drawing hanging in the hall, among the assignments handed in by her students.

Closer inspection revealed a signature near the bottom of the drawing. “Myron,” it read.

“He completed his own assignment,” Mrs. Skladanovskiy said with a smile. “He did awesome, he got an A.”

Credit: Boyd Huppert, KARE
Teacher Liya Skladanovskiy holds up a drawing Myron Peterson, the school janitor, completed

Daily, the students’ music wafts across the school. Their singing and practicing of instruments brings comfort to Myron as he goes about his work.

They share a gift with him, then Myron goes to the classroom whiteboards and gives a gift back to them.

“Sharing,” Myron said. “It’s just like even trade.”

Credit: Boyd Huppert, KARE
A sleigh ride sketch drawn by Myron Peterson, the janitor at Christian Heritage Academy

Christian Heritage Academy Principal Gail Wolfe said Myron has formed a unique relationship with her students in a short time. “He’s usually here off hours, so they don’t necessarily see him, but they know who he is because of these drawings.”

Principal Wolfe had placed an ad for a part-time janitor. She got so much more.

“Yeah,” she said. “I got a beautiful man, a beautiful soul.”

A school and its janitor are making a mark on each other.

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