PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — Nicole Martone is the custodian with all the jangly keys at Cross Bayou Elementary in Pinellas Park.
She fixes things. She takes care of the all the pretty plants. She keep the school running.
“Our job is to hide behind the scenes, walk around, clean up, do things people don’t see,” Martone says.
That’s not why everyone calls her “Miss Nikki.”
And that’s not why the always-smiling star is up for a national award from the Academy of Cleaning Excellence.
“She goes above and beyond with everything,” says Principal Kathy Wickett.
Miss Nikki knows almost every student’s name. She asks how their day was and doles out hugs if the answer isn’t good.
She is nothing less than the heartbeat of the school.
“You have to be in a good mood every day, or you just bring yourself down and bring everyone else down with you,” Martone says.
Miss Nikki loves Cross Bayou, especially because it’s been a supportive home for her son Damion, who wasn’t having the best time at a previous school.
She loves on him, of course. But in a way, every Cross Bayou student is one of her children.
“When a kid runs up to you and hugs you and knows your name, you know you’re doing something right,” Martone says.