Gladys Hernandez has worked as a custodian at Blue Valley CAPS high school in Overland Park, Kansas, for 11 years and 11 months, but May 17 is a day on the job she’ll never forget.
That’s the day Tennant Company named her the grand prize winner of its third annual Custodians Are Key contest during a surprise award celebration at the school.
One in a thousand
Hernandez was one of 12 finalists chosen from nearly 1,000 nominations from around the United States and Canada in the contest that rewards the important work custodians do in K-12 schools across North America.
Hernandez said being nominated was an amazing process and the ceremony blew her mind away. A crowd of family members, current and retired CAPS faculty, Tennant employees, and students wore blue “Team Gladys” T-shirts in her honor. “It was incredible the way everything was set up and I did not know what was going on,” she said. “It was a marvelous and fascinating surprise. Also, I’m very humbled and thankful to Tennant for this recognition and acknowledgment of the almost invisible custodian work.”
Originally from Honduras, Hernandez has lived in the U.S. for 21 years and has worked as a custodian for 16 years. As a single mother, she moved to Overland Park 14 years ago in need of a support system to raise her son.
“I had family members already living in Overland Park and at the same time I was looking for the best education system for my son, who now just finished his freshman year of college,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez was nominated by for the Custodians are Key contest by Laura Benscheidt, Blue Valley CAPS’ Foundations of Medicine instructor, who pointed to Hernandez’s encouraging words for teachers and students and her willingness to give her time to help students as just a few of the many reasons she deserved
“Gladys cares, she wants to provide a building for staff and students to learn in. She greets students and staff at the door with a smile and an encouraging word every day. She is often seen checking in with teachers to meet their daily needs,” said Benscheidt. “Gladys takes pride in knowing that the foundation of her work makes a difference in the ability of the students to learn and the teachers to teach.”
Smiles from morning to afternoon
Hernandez said the best part of her workday is the excitement of getting the building ready for classes, but most importantly the people she works with.
“To see everybody entering the building with a smile on their face and full of enthusiasm to be at CAPS, that’s what makes my day,” she said. “By the end of each school day, seeing those smiling faces again going home tells me that the day was smooth and they enjoy the learning time at CAPS. To know that I did contribute a little on that day is the best part of my job.”
With her heart full of joy, Hernandez plans to use the US$5,000 prize money she received to visit the beaches of Costa Rica. CAPS also received $10,000, which will go toward beautification and safety projects at the school.