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Going above and beyond to keep a school clean — Brownsville custodian wins state award

Pat Nicholson, custodian at Brownsville Elementary School, talks about “Fang,” his floor scrubber painted to be a saber tooth tiger Tuesday morning. The balloons tied to Fang were in celebration of Nicholson being awarded the Washington Education Association’s state classified employee of the year.  - Kristin Okinaka
Pat Nicholson, custodian at Brownsville Elementary School, talks about “Fang,” his floor scrubber painted to be a saber tooth tiger Tuesday morning. The balloons tied to Fang were in celebration of Nicholson being awarded the Washington Education Association’s state classified employee of the year.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka

Fang is like his trusty sidekick. The floor scrubber is painted to look like a saber tooth tiger and frequently roams the halls of Brownsville Elementary School with Pat Nicholson.

“I would have touched up Fang’s teeth if I knew you were coming,” Nicholson joked Tuesday.

Nicholson, a custodian at Brownsville, was awarded the Washington Education Association’s state classified employee of the year during a school assembly Tuesday morning — an achievement that had been kept a secret from him until he walked into the gymnasium.

“I don’t know what to say,” Nicholson said. “I would not have gotten this award without each and every one of you.” He spoke before students, staff, school district administrators and guests who minutes before, cheered as he walked down a red carpet set up just for him.

After the ceremony, Nicholson went straight to work and tried to roll up the carpet on which he received the day’s award, but others told him not to and took up the chore.

Working at Brownsville for 12 years, Nicholson has spent a total of 28 years in the Central Kitsap School District. Prior to working at Brownsville, he had been the lead custodian for the district but said he wanted to go back to working in a school.

“I really like the kids — relating to them,” he said.

Creating Fang 11 years ago was just a way for the students to relate and become engaged with his cleaning regimen. Nicholson said his cleaning program is health-based rather than cleaning for appearance. A few years ago, he also received a national award for introducing “green” cleaning to schools.

“You motivate kids every day. You carry it to the local and state and national level,” Stacy Roberts said to Nicholson after he received the award. Roberts is the Emerald Heights Elementary School office manager and the two are members of Central Kitsap Educational Support Professionals and a WEA state team.

Not only does Nicholson do a good job at his job, he can also work well with anyone.

“Pat is absolutely loved by everyone in school,” said Sandra Horst, principal of Brownsville. She added that he is always enthusiastic and that attitude resonates with others.

Horst said Nicholson is also a wonderful role model for students, especially with “job squad.”

He’s passionate about his work. Job squad is a volunteer program at the school where students help with different tasks around the building such as cleaning down tables before lunch. Nicholson will show students the ropes to building essentials including checking the temperature on thermostats, Horst said.

“He brings his heart to his work,” she added.

Nicholson, who is also known around the school for wearing Chuck Norris kicks, said that the students and staff make his job easy. He added that there is also another custodian at Brownsville to make a great team.

“I’m just doing what I do,” Nicholson said.

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