Custodian who won an award smiling for photo

Tennant Company has announced the grand prize winner chosen in the company’s inaugural Custodians Are Key contest.

Kris Kantor of Hayes Elementary in Lakewood, Ohio was one of 12 finalists chosen from more than two thousand nominations from around the United States. Kantor receives a prize valued at $5,000 while his school receives $10,000. The Custodians Are Key program launched Sept. 9, 2019 and concluded on April 29, 2020.

The eight month recognition program rewards the great work K-12 custodians are doing in schools around the country and honors them and their school with a $15,000 prize package.   

“We had so many amazing nominees for this contest, which made it challenging to whittle down to 12 finalists, much less identify a single person to win the grand prize. Kris Kantor’s clear devotion to students and staff is what gave him the edge,” says Lisa Hrpcek, channel marketing manager, Tennant Company. “There’s never been a more important time to herald the important work these heroes like Kris and the other nominees undertake for our schools.” 

Kantor was nominated last November by school health aide Maureen Yantek who described him as fastidious about organization and cleanliness, making his school the best building in the district. But it is Kantor’s attention to detail that elevates him, learning everyone’s name, including more than 300 students and staff. He created a program called “Kids with Kantor” where he works with students on special projects once a week during his lunch hour, building everyday objects like bird houses, decorative wooden boxes and toy helicopters while teaching kids about safety, tool use and teamwork. 

“Kris lives by the motto that he has painted outside his office: ‘work smarter not harder.’ This enables him to get his regular job duties completed efficiently and effectively, which leaves him time to engage with others. What truly sets Kris apart is the respect and kindness he shows to all students, faculty, and staff,” says Yantek. 

“We’ve always been proud to count Kris as one of our own. This acknowledgement of his great work is extremely deserved,” says Eric Fortuna, principal at Hayes Elementary. “We are lucky to have Kris on our team and look forward to celebrating him when school is back in session.”  

 Principal Fortuna said he will consult with Kantor on how best to spend the $10,000 prize money because he always has great ideas.