Custodian of the Year integral part of Travis

ECISD Custodian Department of Employee of the Year Mark Palmer stands on the spotless floor of the Travis Elementary School cafeteria. He has been stationed at the campus for 11 years and has a team of three to help him. He said the school is like a family. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

Mark Palmer is cleaning up — literally.

He was named Ector County ISD’s Custodian Department Employee of the Year. Palmer has been stationed at Travis Elementary School for 11 years.

He moved to Odessa from Albuquerque, N.M., and relatives told him to apply for a custodian spot. Palmer did because he always wanted to work for the district.

“I love the summer times and the holidays and all that good stuff,” Palmer said.

He said he was overwhelmed by being named Custodian Department Employee of the Year because he had no clue he was going to get the recognition.

“I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what was going on. Everybody was looking at me, and I’m just standing there. I’m so thankful for Marcus Hudgins, who is my foreman. He has helped me a lot to get better at my job,” Palmer said.

He added that Hudgins offers feedback and lets Palmer know he appreciates what he does.

“With your boss coming to you and telling you you’re doing a good job, it makes me want to strive to be better and I always give him props for that,” Palmer said.

Custodial Department Employee of the Year, Mark Palmer, Travis Elementary. (Courtesy Photo)

He noted that he has three other women that help him with keeping Travis clean. The campus has third through fifth grade students.

“They do a wonderful job. Without them, I don’t know if I could do it. It’s like a team, like they say it takes a village to raise a kid, it takes a team to keep this building clean,” Palmer said.

The building belongs to the team, so if they see trash they pick it up. This is the time of year they do their spring cleaning — from floor to ceiling. He noted that you can’t do that without good teamwork and communication.

“When school is going on, of course, everybody has their own areas that they clean. But with that being said, whenever there’s a problem, you need to solve it,” Palmer said.

He added that if you have patience with the children, they will respect you.

“I have the utmost respect for the children and they all address me as Mr. Mark,” Palmer said.

Making sure the students are OK and happy coming into a clean school are two of his favorite things about his job.

“If you come into a clean environment, it might make you learn more,” he said.

Palmer said he likes to keep the campus the way he keeps his house.

The campus also has good communication between people.

“It’s like a family. Basically, you’re with your family when you come to work,” Palmer said. “A lot of us have been together for years.”

He added that getting the award makes him want to redouble his dedication.

“Once you feel that somebody has recognized what you’re doing, it makes you want to work harder,” Palmer said.

He added that education is made up of many different parts that the public may not recognize like custodians.

“Somebody has to clean it in order for it to operate,” Palmer said.

Travis Principal Alejandra Garcia said she is ecstatic for Palmer.

“Mr. Palmer is an integral part of our school. He not only does an impeccable job in his custodial duties, but he goes above and beyond for teachers. Mr. Palmer is constantly assisting teachers in their classrooms when it comes to (moving) or assembling furniture or classroom accessories,” Garcia said.

“He helps with creating and maintaining a positive culture at Travis; constantly joking around with teachers, or giving them a hug when he knows the stress is kicking in. If you ask Mr. Palmer for assistance, he will always be willing to help,” she added.