Simle head custodian named BPS Custodian of the Year, hopes to be role model to students

Published: May. 12, 2022 at 2:38 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - There are 125 people employed as custodians in Bismarck’s public schools. They work hard to keep our schools clean and safe. Often, their efforts are taken for granted.

But there is good news: once a year, Bismarck Public Schools names a Custodian of the Year.

That ward was recently given to Joel Friedt.

Friedt doesn’t stand in one spot very long. As head custodian at Simle Middle School, he’s always on the move. His daily routine includes setting up the cafeteria for lunch, checking in with staff and with the students.

“Kids know who he is. They say hi to him. He’s always saying hi as he as he’s going about his business,” said Kalli Swenson, an English and P.E. teacher at Simle.

“The kids love him,” added Larissa Schwab, who works as an assistive technology specialist at the school.

And Friedt loves the kids. He’ll tell you, they’re the best part of this job. There are a few kids who are extra special to him.

“I do have a special place in my heart for the special needs kids. I have two brothers that are special needs,” Friedt said.

So, when the special education teachers asked him to adapt lockers for their students, he quickly came up with a solution. Instead of having to remember a locker combination, students just swipe a key fab and their locker opens.

“It’s just always the above and beyond that I appreciate so much,” said Schwab.

If you ask Friedt, he’s just doing his job.

“I just do what needs to be done,” he said.

“I think Joel is one of those people that is kind of a hidden hero in our education system,” said Christina Johnson, a special education teacher at Simle.

“I like to stay behind the scenes,” Friedt said.

Whether he’s behind the scenes or in the middle of a busy hallway, Friedt has one goal: to be a positive influence on these middle school kids.

“Just lead by example, I guess you could say be nice to one another,” he said.

And that, Friedt says, can begin with something as simple as a morning greeting and a smile.

Friedt has only been at Simle for about two years. He spent nearly 30 years in the restaurant industry before making the career change. He says he is inspired by a custodian at his school when he was a kid. He remembers his kindness and strives to be more like him.

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