The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 4, 2013

Eagle Lake students go for the gold ... vacuum

By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer

EAGLE LAKE — Eagle Lake Elementary students are a tidy bunch. Every day they walk around their classrooms checking the floor for pencils, papers, even the tiniest pieces of carpet debris that the custodians might lay eyes on.

For one, they’re nice kids. Why make night custodians Evan Bartlett and Bill Anderson work even harder than they have to?

But also, there’s some major hallway cred to consider come Monday morning. Because the classroom or other area of the school deemed by Bartlett and Anderson as the easiest to keep clean each week receives a coveted honor: the Golden Vacuum.

The award is just what it sounds like: a broken vacuum that has been spraypainted gold, said Principal Ginnette Kearney. Fifth-grade teacher Katie Zimmerman had an upright vacuum at home that didn’t work, so she decided to spraypaint it and bring it to school to put it to a different kind of use.

Why?

“Teachers are the most creative people and the hardest-working people I have ever met,” Kearney said. “They forever have new ideas and new thoughts. ... Teachers are the best resource for creativity and fun.”

That certainly proved to be true with the Golden Vacuum. The school decided to have custodians award the “trophy” once a week for cleanliness, and students have been excited to get to school on Monday mornings to find out where in the building the vacuum is sitting.

“All of the classrooms and students and teachers are very aware of their surroundings,” Kearney said. “When they see the (vacuum) sitting outside their room, they just cheer, and it’s super exciting.”

Bartlett and Anderson place the vacuum outside the winning room or area Friday nights. Because school has been out for winter break, the two already knew Thursday where the Golden Vacuum would go next (although it will remain a secret until then).

Anderson said he’s gotten to see the kids “hootin’ and hollerin’” when they’ve seen where the vacuum has been placed.

“From a custodial standpoint, it’s great because the kids get aware of keeping things off the floor,” he said. “There’s good days and bad days, but overall I think the kids enjoy it.”

Kearney said the award is part of the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports model, which revolves around expected behavior for the kids, including identifying, teaching, modeling and praising appropriate behavior. The Golden Vacuum has inspired students do the right thing and clean up after themselves, she said.

“(It’s about) helping kids know the right thing to do and catching them doing it,” she said.