PAULS VALLEY, Okla. (KFOR) — By the time kids at Whitebead roll off the bus or the drop-off line, way before the first breakfast shift, and hours prior to the first school announcements, Dave Martin has already been working to make sure the century-old facility is ready for classes.

“It’s a family atmosphere,” he tells us. “That’s what I like about it. Everybody is willing to pitch in.”

It’s been nearly 40 years since he tired of his factory job nearby.

He applied at the rural school with no previous janitorial experience, but the superintendent at the time liked the way he cleaned things, and asked if he might agree to stay a while.

“So I said that I would,” he smiles.

His house is the teacherage next door to the school.

Dave often wakes early, between 4:00-4:30 a.m.

He is head of transportation and security, safety coordinator, and bus driver.

‘Mr. Dave’, as he’s affectionately known, is always whistling or humming a tune.

To his co-workers, he is both friend and family.

“He’s just a great guy to work with and I would do anything for him,” said fellow bus driver Marty Viera.

To students who’ve grown up with his smiles and hugs he is an ever-present bright spot in their day.

8th Grader Ally Poyner said, “He’s really nice to us in the morning and he cleans up after us.”

“He’s been my bus driver for a long time,” said Elijah Gamble. “So I trust him.”

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When staff here found out about the Cintas Corporation’s 9th annual contest for Custodian of the Year, they rushed an application.

He made the top ten.

Students, said Supt. Luanne Wood, “Hug him in the hallway. He’s like a rockstar.”

To get him voted as winner every family around this rural spot has been encouraged to get online.

Even Mr. Dave will admit his longtime occupation is thankless at times, but he does what he does for something much more than mere affirmation.

“The purpose behind it,” he insists, “is all for the students.”

More than anything else, this is his home, and these are his kids.

Dave Martin is Oklahoma’s lone candidate for Custodian of the Year in 2022. To learn more about the contest OR vote for Martin click here.

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