Judy Preete, the head building operator and caretaker at Indus School, is one of 12 finalists from all over Canada and the United States to be entered into the fourth annual Custodians are Key competition hosted by the Tennent Company.

Custodians are Key is an eight-month recognition campaign that rewards the work K-12 custodians are doing in schools around the country and honors them and their schools with a $20,000 prize package. Each finalist will receive a $665 gift card and a chance to win the grand prize.

Preete is the first ever Canadian to be nominated for this award and was one of the first three finalists to be picked. Preete was nominated by Kim Hart, a learning support teacher, and had so idea she had received the nomination until the 12 finalists were chosen.

“I was told that a parent had seen this on the website sometime last summer, then forwarded it to the staff and said, ‘you guys need to nominate [Preete] for this’ and they did.”

Hart had to write why she thought that Preete should be considered for the award. She wrote that Preete has helped create a caring, safe and connected environment for the students for the last 15 years.

One way that Preete builds connections is by developing relationships with individual students and getting to know them well so that she can tell the appropriate teacher when students need help. She also helps by involving students in leadership activities, participating in the Life Skills activities in the learning support program and attending extracurricular activities to support students.

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

Preete has adopted the nickname ‘coach’ by students and staff for many years. Students who have left Indus and even have their own families now, still refer to her as Coach.

“I would volunteer my lunch breaks to go and supervise sports teams in the gym and then a couple of times when the girl's volleyball team didn’t have a coach to go with them to a game after school, I would volunteer and go with them,” said Preete. “Then I just got the name ‘coach’.”

This is the first time in her 18-year-long career that Preete has not had time to go down and supervise in the gym, but she would still help out her fellow coworkers if they needed her and were short-staffed.

In the next few months, they will pick the remaining nine finalists, and in late May, they will pick the grand prize winner.

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