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Custodian’s impact goes beyond keeping school clean

‘An invaluable member of the family’

photography by Dianne Carroll Burdick

Ask Southeast Kelloggsville Elementary student Santana Tijerina about Quention Doxie and a small, shy smile creases the fifth-grader’s bespectacled visage.

“Oh, when it comes to football, he’s really loud,” Santana said, eyes widening. “When it’s a fumble, he’s going to yell ‘fumble,’ and that’s good. But here in school, he’s quiet. Well he’s not loud in the hallways, I should say.”

Doxie, standing nearby, mask on but an ever-present twinkle in his eye, jumps in: “But as soon as I get outside, huh.”

Kelloggsville fifth-grader Santana Tijerina had Doxie as a football coach and says he is loud when he needs to be

Santana’s reply is one word: “Yes!”

Doxie’s official title at Southeast is custodian. But to the staff, the students and the parents of Southeast, both when he is loud and when he is quiet he is much, much more than that.

A typical day might find him doing crossing guard duty in the morning, then putting out cones in the parking lot to help with traffic flow. 

From there he’s inside, attending to his many custodial tasks, and mid-morning you can usually find him packing lunches alongside the lunch ladies with whom he has an easy rapport, before he delivers the food to all of the classrooms in bright red and blue containers.

Then it’s time for some supervising and kibitzing on the playground, after which he grabs his own lunch at some point, more cleaning and probably coaching myriad teams at all levels of the Kelloggsville system after school.

For Principal Kelly Farkas, having Doxie around is reassurance.

“When I started here as a principal, Mr. Doxie was my recess supervisor,” she recalled. “And I knew if Mr. Doxie was out on the playground, everything was going to be OK.”

Among his many duties in a time of COVID-19 for Kelloggsville custodian Quention Doxie is the delivery of lunches to each classroom

Striving to be a Role Model

So a few years back when Farkas needed a custodian and Doxie’s name came up, Farkas was thrilled.

“I couldn’t wait until he got hired and started working at Southeast Kelloggsville again,” she said. “He does so much besides being our custodian. He mentors kids, coaches kids, talks to kids and holds them accountable. If a student wins five minutes of basketball time as a reward with a staff member, we always know who they are going to pick: Mr. Doxie.”

Doxie shrugs off such praise, but does admit that he loves making a difference in the lives of Southeast students, both in terms of keeping their building clean but also the more intangible impacts as a trusted staff member and as a coach.

“A typical day,” he said with a smile, “is to make sure our students are safe and ready to learn and our building is clean and disinfected. That’s where it starts.”

But, he added, “the students, they keep me on my toes and make me feel great about my job. And I hope they see me as a role model.”

Southeast teachers said that is definitely the case. Farkas recently solicited feedback about Doxie from her staff, and the responses were telling.

  • “The kids, boys especially, look up to him for guidance. He is a true role model for our student athletes, all the while pushing for strong academics too.”
  • “He is a great role model for the kids here, especially those without a father figure. He is an invaluable member of our Kelloggsville family.”
  • “Students are always wanting to just be in his presence, whether that’s helping him with lunch duty or playing football with him at recess.”

Those words mean a lot to Doxie, a Saginaw native, who said he just loves his job and loves to coach. 

“It brings me joy and even tears sometime to see my players compete,” he said, “to see them do what we’ve taught them to do, and most importantly to see them go on and accomplish great things in life, not just on the field but off as well.”

Farkas noted that Doxie coaches the school’s fourth- and fifth-grade intramural programs every season, starting with flag football in the fall, followed by boys and girls basketball in the winter and then coed soccer in the spring. 

“Kids just love him,” she added, “and are always asking to be placed on Mr. Doxie’s team.”

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Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan covers East Grand Rapids and Kelloggsville and is the lead reporter for Grand Rapids. He hails from Exeter, Ontario (but has called Grand Rapids home since 1985) and is the son of a longtime public school teacher who taught both English and machine shop. Phil took both classes at South Huron District High School, but English stuck, and at Calvin College, where he met his wife, Sue, he majored in English and minored in journalism. His background includes both journalism and public relations, including teaching an advertising and PR course at the college level for almost a decade. In the summer of 2019, he began his own writing and communications business, de Haan Communications. In his spare time, Phil plays pick-up hockey and pickleball and tries to keep tabs on his two adult children. Read Phil's full bio


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