My Why - Octavio Alvarado, Head Custodian at Tarkington Elementary School

December 16, 2022

Topic: My Why

You’d be surprised to know that Octavio Alvarado, head custodian at Tarkington Elementary School, is afraid of heights… as he has to climb ladders, paint classrooms and ascend to the roof of the school to fix, clean and maintain the building. But the fear of heights doesn’t stop this industrious employee from doing what needs to be done.                                                                                                                                           His main responsibility is to keep the building safe and clean for students and staff. He opens the building each school day and attends to a litany of items on his work order, which can range from doing minor maintenance, to unclogging a toilet in the student bathroom, to mopping up spilled milk in the lunchroom. That’s just during the school year. Much bigger projects are tackled during the school breaks. Over the last summer, he (and his crew) painted both gyms, and a few classrooms at Tarkington. Over the winter and spring breaks, a deep clean of the school was (and is typically) done. 

A few years ago, this conscientious employee, who takes great pride in his work, noticed the tile floors were yellowing. “There were years of wax buildup on the tile which dulled the look. After I stripped and waxed a small test area, it looked brand new,” said Octavio. He finished the rest of the school floors, including all classrooms and hallways. And Tarkington never looked better.  

With no formal training, Octavio has a natural ability to fix anything that comes his way. Born in Mexico, he came to the U.S. when he was 14 years old and worked with his godfather doing side construction jobs, like installing ceramic tiles, hanging drywall, and fixing minor plumbing issues. After graduating from East Leyden H.S., he worked in maintenance and as a banquet server at a local country club. In 2009, he worked as a summer helper in District 21 and then secured a full-time position with our district. “I heard really good things about the district and since I’ve been employed, the staff and students have been very nice to me,” said Octavio. “We are very lucky to have Octavio. He is an excellent worker and goes above and beyond on a regular basis. He is a special individual,” said Bill Weiss, Assistant Director of Operations. 

In fact, when Octavio worked at Frost Elementary School, he was the custodian on a night shift when a blizzard struck, dumping more than twenty inches of snow. He (and his crew) spent the next several hours and day clearing the sidewalks – going above and beyond.  

With the winter season here, you can count on Octavio to make sure our students have a safe and clean learning environment. And if it snows, Octavio will be clearing a pathway for all of us.