• October 20, 2019

Custodial employee of the year does his work with a smile - Odessa American: ECISD

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Custodial employee of the year does his work with a smile

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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2019 4:49 pm

Recently, Valenzuela, who is the head custodian at Dowling Elementary School, won the Custodial Employee of the Year award.

“I was just filled with happiness,” he said. “I didn’t think I would ever get an award for something that I love to do and I wasn’t expecting to be acknowledged or noticed. I didn’t look at it that way. I just did my job. When they told me I got head custodian of the year I said, ‘Wow. How did I do that?’”

He thought everyone did their jobs.

“That’s what they pay us for. I’m the type of person you pay me, it doesn’t matter the amount of money, I’m still going to do my work for you and I come from $35 an hour to 12 bucks, but it’s still all the same. You’re still going to get me to work even (with) the difference in pay. I’m still going to work,” he said.

Valenzuela worked for Rama Fabrication Inc. for more than three decades since high school, but wanted to have more time with his family, so he took a custodial job first at Reagan Magnet School. He stayed for two years and then arrived at Dowling as head custodian.

This is his second complete year at Dowling. He has three custodians who report to him every day that work on the 70,986-square-foot facility.

After leaving Rama, he put in a resume for the custodial position with ECISD and they hire him the same day.

“I took a resume. I didn’t put in an application. I took a resume and they saw all my accomplishments,” Valenzuela said.

He has three custodians who report to him every day. They cover the school in sections. Valenzuela works from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. and after his duties are over, they work from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“Every custodian we’ve got here, they’ve got their own little sections. There are little wings that they take care of …,” he said.

He and his ex-wife, Eva, have three children ages 12, 16 and 21.

“I ain’t never had a smile on my face until I came here with Reagan because you know all these little kids they’re just smiling and happy and put a smile on my face the whole time I was here. When they were sad, I tried to lift them up a little bit,” Valenzuela said.

The other thing he likes about the campus is it needs to be maintained and cleaned. He honed his cleaning skills at Rama.

“When I was a little kid I cleaned, cleaned, cleaned, cleaned. When I became a supervisor at the warehouse, y’all need to clean, clean, clean, clean. When I came over here they said that’s what you do is clean, clean, clean. And boom, I say I love it,” Valenzuela said.

When customers came from other countries to visit Rama, his boss always wanted the place to be clean.

“So when I came over here, our business people are the administration, the parents that come in here. I do all this for the parents, the administration building and for you. When y’all come into this building, I like to have this building nice and clean for y’all. That’s why I really enjoy doing this,” he said.

Along with the inside of the building, Valenzuela likes to keep the outside of the building looking nice and he also helps students cross the street to get to school safely.

“I do a lot of picking up trash outside. I hate to see a trashy playground, a trashy front entrance. When I pick up trash, I go through a whole playground. I timed myself m’am, it takes almost 35 minutes to do a whole playground each way. I go through each wing up through here. I do it every other day Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” he added.

When it’s raining or the wind is blowing, he doesn’t pick up trash outside.

“Over here, it’s just a good job. It requires maintenance all the time to keep up with the place, just like at home. … We’ve got 400 kids here that we need to clean up after. I enjoy it. I enjoy every minute of it. I really do,” Valenzuela said.

He also cleans at home.

“I’ve learned that from being here at the school. I help my wife do all that. I learned a lot. I didn’t really know what went on in school. The kids go in the restroom and make a mess …,” Valenzuela said.

He told his youngest son who is 12, to respect custodians because they work hard and he warned his son not to mess up the restrooms.

The students thank him for keeping them clean.

“They throw up. I go in there and make jokes, ‘Oh, it smells like Fruit Loops; smells like Lucky Charms. Man, y’all (are) eating good,” Valenzuela said.

“The kids apologize. I go in there with a smile. I’m just happy because that’s what we’re here for. That’s the way I look at it,” he said.

At the entrance, he wishes each student and parent good morning.

“That’s the way I grew up with my parents. That’s the way I was brought up. I can’t wait until they show up until I can say good morning, good morning, good morning,” said Valenzuela, who went to Burleson Elementary, Bowie Junior High and Odessa High School.

Principal Kristabel Regalado said this students and teachers love Valenzuela.

“He’s always willing to jump in, even when he doesn’t need to. He just jumps in and helps everybody. Right before school started, he was coming up here on Saturdays to help me work, not on the clock,” Regalado said.

She added that he did whatever she needed done and helped her get the campus ready for the first day.

“He’s wonderful. He absolutely deserved to be custodian of the year. He works hard and does his job well,” Regalado said.

For his part, Valenzuela said he’s going to try for custodian of the year again, but next time, he’s going to give his fellow custodians recognition.

Odessa, TX

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