probably no secret that I have a special place in my heart for school
I can name
the first one I ever met: Mr. Boder at Hanna Elementary, where I attended
school as a child. He was a regal,
soft-spoken man with iron-gray hair and (I seem to recall) a slight English
accent. In another place or time, he
might have been the perfect butler for a queen.
when I started my first job in education, my aunt (who was a lifelong teacher)
gave me one piece of advice: always make friends with the school custodians.
“Trust me,” she said. “They will matter a heck of a lot more than your
as I struggled through my first year of teaching fourth grade—stressed and
constantly sick—it was Janitor Steve and his wife who showed up at my apartment
one afternoon with an enormous pot of homemade pasta to keep me alive.
(In fact, Steve
kept all of us going as teachers. He was our daily sounding-board—the keeper of
our rants and our sanity.)
As a traveling
author now, I meet janitors far more often than I meet principals. I’ve met janitors who write poetry and ones
who impersonate Elvis. Janitors have read
my books and hauled our equipment through wind and rain and snow—and done
emergency “clean-ups in aisle 5” during writing workshops (no explanation
coincidence that janitors appear as characters in three of my seven books: There’s Mr. Joe who protects the students and
their project from disaster in All of the
Above, mysterious Mr. Ulysses in my upcoming book Things Seen From Above, and of course—Mr. Hampton, the former
janitor turned artist in The Seventh Most
holiday season, let’s recognize and PRAISE the unsung angels, men and women,
who clean up our schools and keep everything (including us) going each
As Mr. Hampton says about the angels in our
lives: “Some are like peacocks. Others are less flashy. Like city pigeons. It
all depends on the wings.” Thank an angel today.