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Voting for the 2022 Custodian of the Year contest hosted by Cintas Corporation closes at 11:59 p.m. PDT on Friday, April 15. The nation’s top 10 finalists include a diverse group of committed school custodians. Vote for your favorite custodian at www.custodianoftheyear.com.  

The winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize along with $5,000 in products and services for his or her school from Cintas and Rubbermaid Commercial Products. The winner’s school will receive a comprehensive training and development package from ISSA, The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association, valued at $30,000. The school will also receive enrollment in the GBAC Fundamentals Online Course that teaches cleaning professionals to prepare for, respond to and recover from biohazards in the workplace from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), a Division of ISSA. The remaining nine finalists will each receive a cash prize of $1,000 and free tuition to one ISSA Cleaning Management Institute (CMI) training event, valued at $1,500.  

The top 10 finalists in the 2022 Custodian of the Year contest include:  

1. Rigoberto (Rigo) Bedolla – Las Animas Elementary School (Gilroy, California)  

Rigo is a shining light at Las Animas Elementary School despite working the night shift. Staff often see him singing while he single-handedly cleans over 30 classrooms and bathrooms. He will go out of his way to fix anything teachers request while also completing his long list of tasks during his shift. Since he works the night shift, Rigo is not often shown the appreciation he deserves, but staff at Las Animas believe he has a great attitude and does an outstanding job keeping their school clean.   

2. Becky Burkart – Chadwick School (Chadwick, Missouri)   

At Chadwick School, Becky is known for taking the time to celebrate students and staff from wishing students luck in a state competition by writing in chalk on the front doors of the school to coming in on her own time to decorate Christmas trees and hallways before the holiday. She also takes the time to learn all students and staff’s first names and regularly checks in with teachers to see if they need anything. When she arrives at school to the end of the day, Becky goes non-stop until everything is clean. Even when other school districts visit, they comment Chadwick School is the cleanest around. 

3. Gerald Custer – Pike Road Elementary School (Pike Road, Alabama) 

Mr. Gerald is a valued member of the Pike Road Elementary School community. He’s recognized for going above and beyond for students and staff day-in and day-out. For example, he will attend students’ events outside of the school day to show his support for them and he even remembers their birthdays. When teachers request assistance, he’s right there to jump in and help with whatever is needed, like getting a band aid for a crying student. Mr. Gerald does the dirtiest jobs without ever complaining and always has a smile on his face. 

4. Frank DiPaolo – Washington Irving Elementary School (Oak Park, Illinois)  

Aside from keeping Washington Irving Elementary School safe and clean, Frank is an asset to his school’s community. For the last two decades, he has taken students with special needs under his wing and has learned their interests to help them with conversational skills. He is highly involved in school-sponsored events and DJs for school dances, block parties and the school’s annual “Irving Sleepover.” When former students stop to visit, they often ask about Frank because of their fond memories of the school’s events and his contributions to each of them. 

5. Lydell Henderson – Presidential Park Elementary School (Middletown, New York)   

According to staff at Presidential Park Elementary School, Lydell is not only a hard worker who has made coming back to school in person possible by reconfiguring cleaning protocols and procedures, but he is an extraordinary human. One day while he was cleaning the cafeteria, a student began choking, and Lydell immediately jumped into action. He performed the Heimlich Maneuver on the student and saved their life, which the school is forever grateful for. While he has been at his current school for nine years, he is well-known for his unmatched professionalism the last 34 years in the school district as well. 

6. Ilka Jenkins – Bricker Elementary School (Colorado Springs, Colorado)   

Ilka has proven herself instrumental at Bricker Elementary School in providing a safe and sanitary learning environment for the education of young minds. Whether she is doing bus duty after school, or cleaning restrooms, she offers the same warm smile and level of consistent care in everything she does. For the 2021-2022 school year, Bricker combined learning spaces with another local school. This increased enrollment at the school by 100 students, but Ilka didn’t miss a beat and goes out of her way to ensure all the students’ and staffs’ needs are being met. Her school considers her the “bedrock of the school’s custodial staff.” 

7. Raymond Johnson – Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, Virginia)   

Mr. Johnson is an 85-year-old military veteran who is truly treasured by all at the Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department where he has worked for the last five years. He is loved for his greetings that come from a place of genuine compassion. He is also known for his excellence in single-handedly keeping the Department organized, stocked and sanitized, enabling staff to do their jobs more effectively. He even adjusts his own work schedule to fit the needs of the department, a 24/7 day and night operation. Mr. Johnson is always upbeat, optimistic and can usually be heard humming a tune! 

8. James Lewis – Beltsville Academy (Beltsville, Maryland)  

At Beltsville Academy, Mr. Lewis is always there to lend a helping hand. Whether it’s teaching students a valuable life skill, helping students make good choices for their future or bonding with special needs students. He’s also not shy to offer advice when arranging classrooms so that students and staff are safe and have reasonable spacing in the rooms. Aside from daily cleaning tasks, he gets involved by participating in staff vs. student basketball games, does the grilling at the school’s grade level cookouts and keeps the school culture positive and healthy as well.  

9. David (Dave) Martin – Whitebead Public School (Pauls Valley, Oklahoma)    

For the last 40 years, Mr. Dave has become fully ingrained in the Whitebead Public School community from being a bus driver in the morning and afternoon to keeping the halls clean during the day. There are days when he will start his day at 4 AM and he doesn’t go home until dark to make sure the school is a safe and clean place. Students love coming to school each morning see his smiling, friendly face. He regularly participates in school functions, events, and meetings during the year and takes the time to get to know everyone at the school – he knows nearly every student’s name who attends Whitebead Public School, even after four decades! 

10. Louis (Lou) McCullen – Pohatcong Township School (Phillipsburg, New Jersey)   

Mr. Lou has made such a difference in the lives of students who pass through the halls of Pohatcong Township School. Students often come back long after they’ve graduated to share stories with him. He is known for his dedication to keeping the school clean and maintained. He supports all school, recreational sports and PTA events as well. Mr. Lou regularly helps students carry a class project or wishes them a Happy Birthday – he truly cares about building relationships with them. He even comes in on weekends and during inclement weather to make sure the school is functioning in tip-top shape. 

Voting is available here.