November 2, 2018
Allen Spivey, better known as "Mr. Al," works as building operator and custodian at Randolph Elementary School. However, he prides himself in being much more than "just a custodian." Along with his normal duties as custodian, he is seen as a confidante and mentor to many students, encouraging them to continue their education and do their best in school. He has worked for Topeka Public Schools for five years, working first at Williams Science and Fine Arts Magnet before moving to his current role at Randolph Elementary. Mr. Al is beloved by the whole school, where they held a "Mr. Al Appreciation Day" this year.
"I'm a little different than other custodians. I have three main things that are important to me, and those are my kids, my staff and my school. I try to take care of all three. And as far as the kids go, I'm whatever they need me to be - need me to be a father, a brother, a best friend, an uncle - whatever they need me to be to get through the day and help the teachers teach better. That's what I am."
"I live for the kids. This is why I do what I do. It's strictly for the kids. A lot of people will tell you that during the summertime I get depressed because the kids are gone. A lot of people will be like 'I know you're glad the kids are gone,' and I'm like 'no, I miss the kids.'"
"Like I said before, I'm whatever these kids need me to be. I'm more than just a custodian to them, and I let them all know that. I have 400 kids. They're all my babies. Of course my daughter does get a little jealous sometimes, but she does understand. I just hope that what I teach these kids sticks with them. If not throughout life, at least going through middle school and high school. I had a child come back last year, and I had been with him since he was in pre-school. It just touched me to see how much he's grown. It's very nice. It's touching. I'm a low-key person, and once they're gone I expect them to go on and do well, so when they do come back it does shock me. It does warm my heart that they came back to see me; that I'm one of the first people they thought about to come see. I always tell them, 'no matter how much time you're away from this school or how old you are, I'm always going to be here for you.'"
"I have a different approach. Again, they're all my babies, they're all my kids. I've always taught my daughter that 'Me and your mom have a job to do, which means you have a job to do, which is school.' So I always try to tell the kids, 'This is your job.' So I hope that when they do go to middle school or high school they take it seriously as if it is their job, so they will excel when they graduate high school and do whatever they choose to do."
An example of the impact Mr. Al has has had on students is his relationship with a child named Jake. Jake is a first-grader at Randolph and has autism. His mother, Julie Phillips, wrote to explain how much Mr. Al means to her son.
"We have had many ups and downs throughout the last couple of years, but Mr. Al has been the most consistent light for Jake. Mr. Al calls Jake his 'little cannonball.' Jake only goes to school for four hours each day, but built into his schedule is time with Mr. Al every day. They take walks, clean up the school or just hang out. When Jake is in crisis, Mr. Al often comes to help him calm down. Mr. Al has taken the brunt of Jake's meltdowns on more than one occasion and always reminds Jake how much he cares about him when it's all over. Mr. Al told Jake, 'We are best friends. There is nothing you can do to change that. I will always take care of you and be here for you.' I tell him (Mr. Al) how wonderful he is every time I see him, but I feel there is nothing I will ever be able to do to show how much we care for and appreciate Mr. Al."