Vince Talman loves his job as the lead custodian at Saseenos elementary school. He values the interaction with children and teachers and takes pride in his work. (Tim Collins/Sooke News Mirror)

Sooke school custodians are unsung heroes

Schools are sparkling by the time September rolls around

As the new school year is fast approaching, an army of dedicated workers has been hard at work in the Sooke School District, working behind the scenes to polish, scrub and wax every square inch to ensure schools are gleaming by the time the first student returns in September.

“These people are really the unsung heroes of the school division. When the last bell rings and the students file out for the summer, these people shift into high gear,” said Glen O’Keefe, the custodial manager for the Sooke School District.

“And when they’re done, those schools have been given a new life … cleaned top to bottom.”

RELATED: Back to school soon

In the children’s classic Mary Poppins, the itinerant Bert describes his role of the chimney sweep as being viewed by many as being on the bottom-most rung of life. He dispels that characterization, talking (or rather singing) about how the sweeps take pride in their work and appreciate the unseen elements of the job.

The school custodians life is sort of like that.

Consider that during the school year, each custodian is responsible for an average of 25,000 square feet of floors during every eight-hour shift. That’s roughly the equivalent of 10 homes.

And they do far more than sweep, wash, and wax floors. They are responsible for the general maintenance and cleaning of the entire space and, if you have ever cleaned up after even a single child, imagine multiplying that by several hundred and you begin to get the idea of what they’re up against.

“I really value the work I do. We do it for the kids. The way I see it, kids are beautiful and without them there just wouldn’t be any point to life,” said Vince Talman, the lead custodian at Sassenos elementary school.

“I take a lot of pride in my work.”

He values the contact he has with the children and staff as well as the general public that use the school. He said that those contacts can add a lot of meaning to the job at hand and inspire him to do his best work every day.

“The summer is when they have a chance to do a real deep clean of the 27 schools in the district, and I can tell you that these people are amazing,” said O’Keefe. “We have some real rock stars.”

He added the work of a custodian has become more complex than it was in the past.

“It’s not just sweeping and mopping. They have to know how to use the equipment, mix chemicals, and be aware of all the health and safety issues around their job.”

He said during the school year, the 63 full-time custodians and 15 auxiliary staff work primarily during the evening hours, but that doesn’t mean they don’t meet the community.

“Schools these days have become community centres of a sort, and are in use well into the evenings. And the students have a lot of after school activities as well,” O’Keefe said.

“So there’s a real personal side to the job where they are in contact with the community as well.”

He acknowledged that many school custodians become friends with the students and others and that it’s not uncommon that they get notes of appreciation or even small gifts from the students at the end of the school year.

“I love seeing that,” said O’Keefe. “It says a lot about the people who are doing this work for us. They care about the schools and the people in them, and it shows.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


The work of a custodian has become more complex as safety protocols and the use of different chemicals and methods have increased. Vince Talman checks out the chemical supply at Saseenos elementary school. (Tim Collins/Sooke News Mirror)

Custodians Ray Lasell and Angela Winteler add a little fancy footwork to their summer school cleaning tasks. (Contributed)

Just Posted

Proposed Sooke gun law sent back to administration. Again.

Fifth time lucky for firearms and bow bylaw?

Island Health, Victoria Hospice fund 15 more patient beds for end-of-life care at Royal Jubilee Hospital

New patient beds in hospice and acute palliative care to be in place by spring 2020

Help support the Sooke food bank by sharing some Christmas cheer

The Christmas season is spreading it’s cheer throughout the community and the… Continue reading

‘Homespun’ brings six Greater Victoria artists together for genre-bending music

Highlands Music Coffee House returns Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m.

Police impound 19 vehicles for excessive speed on Malahat

Excessive speed is classified as going more than 40 km/h over the limit in that stretch

‘A loud sonic boom’: Gabriola Island residents recount fatal plane crash

Area where the plane went down is primarily a residential neighbourhood, RCMP say

Laid-off forest workers converge on B.C. legislature

Loggers call for action on strike, provincial stumpage

B.C. guide fined $2K in first conviction under new federal whale protection laws

Scott Babcock found guilty of approaching a North Pacific humpback whale at less than 100 metres

Feds urge Air Canada to fix booking problems as travel season approaches

The airline introduced the new reservation system more than three weeks ago

Almost 14,000 Canadians killed by opioids since 2016: new national study

17,000 people have been hospitalized for opioid-related poisoning

Chevron move to exit Kitimat LNG project a dash of ‘cold water’ for gas industry

Canada Energy Regulator approved a 40-year licence to export natural gas for Kitimat LNG

B.C. cities top the list for most generous in Canada on GoFundMe

Chilliwack took the number-two spot while Kamloops was at the top of the list

Penticton RCMP warn of new ‘porting’ scam that puts internet banking, online accounts at risk

Two-factor verification has been the go-to way to keep online accounts secure

Most Read