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Finalists Announced for $15,000 Custodians Are Key Award

Tennant Company, a world leader in the design, manufacturing and marketing of solutions to reinvent the way the world cleans, announced the first round of finalists in its fourth annual Caretakers Are Key program, an eight-month recognition campaign that honors the ‘the excellent work the K-12 custodians are doing in schools across the country and we honor them and their school with a $15,000 prize package. The three finalists were chosen from a field of nearly 1,400 nominations from the United States and Canada.

This year’s top three finalists are Fabian Emery of Keith & Karen Hayes Elementary School in Las Vegas, Nevada; Judy Preete of Indus School in Indus, Alberta, Canada; and Keith Venable of Shallowater ISD in Ransom Canyon, Texas. Each finalist receives a $500 gift card and a chance to win the grand prize.

“To say we were impressed with the amount of applications we heard this year would be an understatement,” says Amanda Herbert, marketing manager at Tennant Company. “Every year it gets harder to pick just our 12 finalists – and deservedly so – there are so many heartwarming stories shared by teachers, students and communities in support of the custodians who improve their schools every day. What has struck us this year is that custodial teams are playing an even more integral role within the school ecosystem, given all the challenges of the past two years. Even so, with all the added pressure and responsibility schools are taking on around cleaning, there are so many janitors who are still going beyond their job description to make a positive impact on the school and the students.”

The top three finalists represent the best of the best in the United States

Fabian Emery was nominated by Michelle Thom, assistant principal of Keith & Karen Hayes Elementary School. Emery has an all inclusive mindset, going above and beyond to help in any situation with a positive attitude and a smile on his face. He is known to spend more time attending family events at school, visiting students and their families, as well as coming over the weekend when there are other projects that cannot be done during the school day. Recently, Emery started a student incentive program, handing out “Hero Grams” at lunchtime to students who help others, earn respect, remember safety, and own their behavior and education.

“All the students are lining up to be the caretaker helper for the day,” Thom says. Outside of school, Emery volunteers with a flag football team, instilling in his fourth and fifth graders the importance of respectful behavior and a good work ethic.

Judy Preete was nominated by Indus School’s Learning Support Teacher, Kim Hart. Preete has helped create a caring, safe and connected environment for students for over 15 years, knowing that feeling connected is key to standing up for yourself, asking for help, developing a positive self-image, improving social and communication skills, and being involved at school life.

One way he builds this connection is by developing relationships with individual students, getting to know them well enough to let appropriate staff know if a student needs help, engaging students in leadership activities, participating in life skills activities in the Program learning support and attending extracurricular events to support students.

Preete goes even further by organizing successful celebrations (in her spare time and with her own money), decorating the school for holidays and special occasions, cooking and baking for staff, and buying books at the book fair for students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to do it.

“Our school is a beautiful and thoughtful place, and Judy is a big part of it,” says Hart. “I can’t imagine our school without her.”

Keith Venable was nominated by Crystal Miller, a parent of the Shallowater school district. Venable fills many roles at Shallowater, managing custodial staff and the budget, assisting with specific maintenance duties, and even driving athletes, students and band members to and from out-of-town games.

“His commitment to Shallowater is like no other,” Miller says. “He IS compassionate, thoughtful, diligent, and hardworking, which makes him a super caretaker by far!”

Venable maintains open lines of communication with his superiors and those he leads throughout the day, and stays on top of all procurement needs, contacting vendors well in advance to ensure the school isn’t caught off guard. She has high standards for her school and makes sure they have the best supplies, while staying within budget. Above all, Venable is reliable, always ready to lend a hand when needed. “As far as a super keeper goes, I think Keith is top notch,” says Miller. “In fact, he does all of this with ease, so he might already have a super suit under his clothes.”

Keepers are a key timeline

This year’s program began with a call for applications on 13 September 2022. Applications closed on 15 November 2022 and a total of 12 finalists will be selected. The campaign will conclude at the end of May 2023, when a single grand prize winner will be announced.

The grand prize winner will receive a prize worth $5,000, with their school receiving $10,000. Last year’s winner was Gladys Hernandez of Blue Valley CAPS in Overland Park, Kan.

Tennant will announce the remaining nine finalists later in the school year. Visit tennantco.com/custodian to learn more about the program Custodians are the core of Tennant Company.

To find out more about last year’s winner, click here.

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