LINGLE – When he showed up to work Tuesday, Lingle-Fort Laramie Schools custodian Eleno Olivia had no idea it was going to be a special day for him.
Just like he’s done for the last half decade, Olivia had a list of things to do around the Lingle-Fort Laramie school buildings. Once the day got started, he was invited outside and got one of the biggest surprises of his career.
The school’s teachers and staff were waiting for him in the L-FL Elementary parking lot, and he emerged from the doors to the sound of cheers from his coworkers. Olivia was named the Goshen County Educators Association Educational Support Professional of the Year, and received a candy bouquet to mark the occasion.
He had no idea he’d earned the distinction.
“I’m very grateful,” he said. “I told them a little while ago that if I were to ask any of these individuals to help me out, they would help me out in a heartbeat. For that, I’m very grateful to be here.
“I’ll have a sweet tooth for a while.”
The GCEA accepts nominees for ESP of the Year from the entire district, and they’re voted upon by the GCEA members. Sheila Bever, one of L-FL’s representatives on the GCEA, said Olivia plays a huge part in the school’s success.
“He is always there for every employee and every student,” Bever said. “Goshen County is first. He helps anybody at any time, day or night – he is there for us.
“Anywhere from kindergarteners on up, he greets everybody, knows everybody, holds everybody to high standards – they know he is always there for them.”
Interacting with the students and the other teachers is the best part of the job, Olivia said.
“I like to interact with the kids, talk with the teachers, to take the work one day at a time – one day I’ll be here dong this, the next day I’ll be doing something else,” he said. “I’m very grateful.
“I really like it here.”
L-FL Principal Cory Gilchriest called Olivia “one of the best hires I’ve ever made,” and Olivia is proving his worth this spring, even without students in the building.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, custodians have emerged as frontline heroes who have played a role in disinfecting multiple surfaces to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Olivia said it has been a busy period for him and his team.
“There have been days when we show up and hardly do anything, but for the most part, we’ve been taking care of everything we can,” he said. “It has been busy.”
Bever said Olivia and his cohorts have been doing a great job during the pandemic – but that doesn’t come as a surprise for people who know the GCEA ESP of the Year.
“They have been cleaning from top to bottom, day and night. We will come in the building, and they disinfect everything,” she said.
“He’s the man. He will take on any challenge with a smile.”