TUPELO • Michael Easley, known to students as Mr. Mike, is a custodian at Joyner Elementary School. He is among 80 school custodians across the Tupelo Public School District and Lee County School District who were recognized by the Junior Auxiliary of Tupelo on Tuesday.
Easley, who has worked as a school custodian for three years, said there's never a dull moment at Joyner.
"I work in a good environment, especially with the staff, from the office personnel down to the teachers," Easley said.
His favorite part of the job is interacting with students. They'll ask where he is if he's absent from the lunchroom one morning — especially on Fridays when Easley passes out suckers to every student in the school, a tradition he's had for the past three years.
"I've gotten to know what color they like," Easley said. "This one wants grape, this one wants strawberry. It's fun."
Kim Hodges, public relations chairperson for the Junior Auxiliary of Tupelo, said the organization wanted to show custodians they're seen and appreciated.
"They're having to sanitize a whole lot more, things probably that they've never had to do before in their jobs," Hodges said. "The kids are eating in the classrooms at lunch, which you know has got to create a huge mess. We just know that they've had a whole lot more on their plate."
The effort to thank school custodians by the Junior Auxiliary of Tupelo is a part of JA Week which runs from April 4 through April 10.
Each custodian received a gift bag with a card reading "You guys are lifesavers!", two rolls of Life Savers candy and a Sonic gift card.
"Instead of celebrating us, we wanted to celebrate people who may not have been celebrated as much this year but have had a huge impact on the ability for our kids to go to school," Gwen Cordell, President of the Junior Auxiliary of Tupelo, said of the choice to recognize custodians. "Most of our members have school-aged kids, so they've meant a lot to us."
Emily Lee, second grade teacher, said Easley always goes above and beyond, always sticking his head into the classroom to check in on teachers.
"He's constantly speaking and wanting to know how you are, and just has a such a great rapport with the kids," Lee said. "He is such a leader for them and they look up to him as well."
Easley is a key part of everything students, teachers and administrators at Joyner Elementary School do, according to Principal Kim Foster.
"He helps us contribute to our culture of hospitality and love and care for kids and that's what's most important," . "We don't want to think about doing life without him."