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Woodland custodian wins statewide award

WOODLAND, Maine — On Tuesday, representatives of state education groups recognized Bob Ekman, who has nearly 30 years of custodial experience at Woodland Consolidated school, for his hard work and dedication to student well-being. 

The A. Burleigh Oxton Award for Excellence is presented to one custodian every year following a conference of officials from the Maine Department of Education and the Educational Plant Maintenance Association of Maine. Recipients are given a plaque along with a $300 scholarship that they can present to a student in their name.

Andy Madura of the Educational Plant Maintenance Association, and also the director of transportation facilities and food service at the Lake Region School District, spoke about the award process in the Woodland school gymnasium on Tuesday morning.

He said that he and other officials received nine nominations this year, which were narrowed down to four finalists, and that the committee unanimously chose Ekman for the award.

Madura then read Ekman’s nomination letter, which was written by Union 122 Superintendent Karla Michaud.

In her letter, Michaud referred to Ekman as someone who “truly has a heart of gold and will help anyone at any time.” She also described his ability to consistently go above and beyond to assist the school.

“Bob works selflessly to accommodate the needs of all,” she wrote, “from building shelves, painting a classroom, to cleaning tirelessly in an older school to make it shine.” She added that he also has no issue coming into the school “on weekends, evenings, emergencies, during holidays,” or any time he is needed.

Michaud wrote that Ekman possessed numerous talents that allowed him to perform various tasks, including replacing windows; patching leaky roofs; fixing doors; making window covers; rebuilding walls; replacing ceiling and floor tiles; building shelves, bookcases, and desks; fixing furniture; and creating “ergonomic aides” for students and staff.

Outside of school, Michaud said that Ekman’s faith “leads him to serve the community in many different ways,” including regularly visiting the homes of elderly and ill residents to assist them with odd jobs. He also is called upon “to speak statewide about his faith on a regular basis.”

He even possesses a number of culinary talents, according to Michaud, who wrote that he “is known to cook meals and deliver them to those in need as well.”

“Not only does he do all of this,” said Madura after reading Michaud’s letter, “but he drives the kids to school every day. He has totally impressed all of us.”

He presented the plaque to Ekman, who emphasized that his efforts are only helping the other staff have an easier time of teaching and assisting students.

“You all have a huge part in this,” Ekman said. “It’s always a team effort with everyone working together.”

Woodland Consolidated School Principal Susie Schloeman said that “if anybody knows this building, Bob does,” adding that both the staff and students greatly appreciate the decades of hard work he has done at the school.

Ekman said that he had mixed feelings when he first learned he was accepted for the statewide award.

“I’m not one for the spotlight,” he said, “but I also know that it’s a good accomplishment. I’ve worked for close to 29 years, all here at Woodland. Over all the years, it’s been worthwhile.”

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