Jennifer Eisenbeis, Writer

With the flick of a light switch, custodian David VanValin begins preparing the school for the day ahead. As students begin to arrive, he greets each one with a smile and begins completing his daily tasks in the hallways he knows so well.

“I graduated from here in ‘98 and I love working at my alma mater,” VanValin said. “It’s very family-oriented and it’s nice to see friendly faces. It’s nice to be around people you know.”

At lunch, VanValin rolls the trash cans around to the students, smiling and communicating with them all the while. This is one of the various tasks he does to keep the school looking nice.

“I take out the trash, clean brooms, setup and tear down for events like athletics, band and choir,” VanValin said. “Set ups and tear downs can take a long time depending on if we get a lot of help from people outside of the school.”

With the many tasks he has to do during the day, he finds picking up after the students to be the task he does most.

“The job I do the most during the day is unnecessary cleanups,” VanValin said. “On walls, there could be spit, any kind of foreign objects on the floor that you’re just kind of like, ‘Oh! Okay, that’s going to be a challenge to clean up!’”

As a custodian at his alma mater, he enjoys being involved in and being a bigger part of the school.

“I attend board meetings; I’d like to become better at it,” VanValin said. “I like to try to stay informed with everything that is happening in the school.”

He also attends many sporting and extra curricular activities. He says it helps him get to know more people and faculty better.

“I would say all of the events have their differences,” VanValin said. “I like basketball and soccer. I also like the acting and the drama productions. I haven’t been to the Ruby Zima Arts Festival, but I have seen the art as I am setting up for it and it’s cool to look at.”

Even with all of the time he spends attending school events, working and cleaning the school, and communicating with everyone, he manages to balance out the time he spends at work and with his daughter.

“I have one daughter, she is 11 and goes to Woodland Park Academy in Grand Blanc,” VanValin said. “I really enjoy my work, because I can do all that I can to influence her by sports, arts, and the communication I have because of my job.”

VanValin loves the communication involved in his job. In fact, it is one of the reasons he decided to become a custodian.
“I get a balance between work and people in my job,” VanValin said. “Some custodians work only nights and do not work the day shift like I do. Working the day shift gives me more interaction with people than they get.”

Another reason why he decided to become a custodian comes from his early working experience from when he was younger.

“I was very fortunate in my younger days,” VanValin said. “I cleaned at various other places and was very fortunate to sub and get an idea of what any boss would expect. I knew that I could work in the way they wanted.”

Being a custodian sometimes requires time spent working on weekends and holidays instead of relaxing at home.

“I do not work on holidays,” VanValin said. “On weekends, we get a choice; and I like having that choice. Some people like to work weekends and some don’t; it’s great.”

The custodial staff recently experienced several cutbacks that include the elimination of the Saturday shift. This affects VanValin and the rest of the custodial staff.

“We feel a crunch trying to maintain what we already do; we do the best we can,” VanValin said. “The trend has been to try to save money, but we are very fortunate and blessed to have what we have. It can be very challenging, but it’s not a bad thing. We are at wits end so, if they cut back, the school might not look as clean as it does.”

As his work days draw to an end, VanValin finishes up any remaining work he has from earlier in the day, and heads for home, wearing a smile that he will greet the world with the next morning.