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Indus school custodian is a finalist in a North American competition.

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Judy Preete is the custodian at Indus School, just east of Calgary and is also one of 12 finalists from schools all over Canada and the United States for the annual Custodians Are Key competition hosted by Tennant Company.

It's an eight-month long recognition campaign that rewards the great work K-12 custodians are doing and honors them and their school with a nearly $20,000 CAD ($15,000 USD) prize package.

"You know, I get lots of thank yous in my school," she said. "But never have I been recognized."

Preete is known as Coach to all the staff and students because when she started in 2005 she was needed to supervise the school's sports teams over the lunch hour. She isn't doing that any more but the name stuck.

"Some of the (students) say oh Coach, you're the best teacher ever," she said. "And I tell them I'm not a teacher I'm the janitor, but I like to think I'm teaching them something, some respect and looking after your building and your classmates."

BUILDING CONNECTION

Kim Hart is the school's learning support teacher who nominated Preete. Hart had to write why her school's custodian should be considered for the award and told the judges Preete builds connections with individual students and develops relationships, earning their trust.

She wrote, 'Preete goes even further by organizing celebrations of success on her own time and with her own money, decorating the school for holidays and special occasions, baking and cooking for the staff, and purchasing books at the book fair for students who otherwise would not be able to do so.'

"She's just a very integral part of our caring community and supporting kids wherever they are with whatever they need," said Hart. "There's lots of unsung heroes in this school that I make sure I acknowledge, but she's somebody that I feel truly deserves this kind of acknowledgement for sure."

Preete has a candy drawer that she shares with students who need a little emotional pick-up if they're having a bad day or if they do something that helps make her job easier.

"She's always been an inspiration since I came here," said Morgan Tanner, grade nine student. "She's always helped me out, she's gave us a lot of food for helping her out, it's just been really good."

PRIDE ABOUT INDUS

'She like encouraged us to have pride about Indus," said Abby Gosling, grade nine student. "Every time I see her I just want to smile."

Grade four student Jack Kearns said "She is really good to you, if you help her out she gives you treats so I think she really deserves this award."

Tennant Company was founded in 1870 and is headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. It's a world leader in the design, manufacture and marketing of solutions that help create a cleaner, safer and healthier world. It started the competition in 2019 and this year had 1,400 nominations.

Preete receives a $665 CAD ($500 USD) gift card for being a finalist and the winner will be announced in May who gets a prize package worth $6658 CAD ($5,000 USD) and their school receives $13,317.50 CAD ($10,000 USD).

Preete is always the first one at school to make sure it's clean when the students and staff arrive and says she'll keep doing what she does best for a few more years until retirement.

"If a kid needs a hug and I'm the one they see, we come in (my office), we have a talk and a treat," she said. "After an hour when they're back in their class, they're laughing and they're engaging, to me I've made a difference in somebody."

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