Chamblee’s custodial staff works tirelessly, five days a week, to make our school a clean and appealing place to learn. Though they are always around us, whether it be to pick up our trash or to buff the floors, most students do not see them and are therefore unable to recognize how much they do for us.
Since October 2 was National Custodial Workers’ Recognition Day, a few of these vital staff members shared personal stories and details about their lives so that students could become more acquainted with them.
Custodial staff member Mike Pamplin, a Kalamazoo, Mich. native, spends his days around school doing whatever needs to be done.
“My role is to pretty much maintain the facility — any spills, clean-up, or anything that needs to be repaired, such as the typical electrical outlets,” said Pamplin. “The restrooms — yeah, that’s one of my hardest jobs. Sometimes the kids can get carried away, and forget where they are, and just go wild.”
Pamplin moved to Atlanta 20 years ago with his family, but he has not spent all of those years working at Chamblee.
“Chamblee is actually the first school that I’ve worked at, and I’ve been here at Chamblee now for three years,” said Pamplin. “I like the staff and the facility, and the new school.”
Before Chamblee, he served at a variety of other companies around the Atlanta area.
“[I worked at] UPS — two years. I was a bill collector for 12 years before I went to UPS, so I was in the corporate end of work before I came to the custodial staff,” said Pamplin. “[I left because] it was time for a change in scenery. I wanted to get with a company that there was room for me to grow in.”
Pamplin has a variety of hobbies, but his favorite is to listen to what he calls ‘old school music.’
“I would say, more or less, Marvin Gaye, Bobby Womack, Curtis Mayfield, you know, retro old school music,” said Pamplin.
He likes his job, but sometimes it can get a bit messier than he would like. That is why he has a message for the students.
“The custodial staff are here for you guys, and if we could really get you guys to help us assist you better, it would be greatly appreciated,” said Pamplin.
Some students have met the custodial staff and are able to recognize them for all that they do.
“They work really hard to keep our school clean and they’re just really nice and kind to all of the students,” said junior Anna Graves.
Many are enamoured of one staff member in particular, an older man named Mr. Nguyen, or as he is affectionately known to many, ‘Mr. Phe.’
“Mr. Phe is really great. He always gives people food when they don’t have lunch in the lunchroom,” said junior Betsy Wilcauskas. “He always tries to socialize with the students, like, he keeps up with my studies sometimes and asks me how classes are going.”
Custodial staff member Milan Vala, who hails from the Czech Republic, does a lot of the school’s technical work. He moved to Nashville, Tennessee in the 1990s, and then moved to Atlanta in 1999.
“Actually, I came here [from the Czech Republic] just to work and make some money. A little travel while I’m here, because I like to travel and it made coming easier,” said Vala. “I’ve traveled the whole United States, it’s very beautiful.”
He started working at Chamblee in 2009 as a custodial staff member, but he did not always work in this field.
“I worked in a business, doing the floor work and the carpet, and I worked in the bank in my country. I was a financial broker,” said Vala.
He has a wide variety of passions which he spends time doing when he is able to.
“Coaching, soccer, I used to play hockey. I like to cook, and I’m becoming a good chef. I get a lot of compliments,” said Vala. “I like to make the jokes, and the fun, and help people make love, if it’s possible,” said Vala.
He now has family that lives with him in Atlanta, but he also has other relatives still living in Czech Republic.
“I have my wife and my son here,” said Vala. “My mother, and my brother, they live in Europe. Only from my wife’s side, I have family here.”
Since he is such a proud father and husband, he spoke extensively about his cherished son and wife.
“[My son] goes to Chamblee Middle School, he’s a seventh grader, his name is Viktor. He’s a great student and I’m very happy for him,” said Vala. “He played football one year, and he likes scouting. My wife works in retail.”
He has a message for students at Chamblee, as well, one that probably spurs from the same advice he gives to his own son at home.
“Just have the fun, enjoy, study hard,” said Vala. “You know, the maintenance, we always try to help you and make sure the school is clean. Anything you guys need, or teachers, or anybody, we just always want to help you.”