With a mix of determination and support, former Denver Public Schools custodian, Michael Atkins, worked his way up from janitor to his new role as principal.
Part of his success can be attributed to how he approached his first full time job cleaning schools.
"I took pride in the bathrooms I cleaned. I took pride in the rooms that I vacuumed," Atkins told KUSA.
Atkins credits his transition from cleaning the hallways to teaching, to his second grade teacher whom he ran into on the job. That teacher, who built a special relationship with him at age seven, helped him get a job in the classroom as a paraprofessional teacher.
There he applied the same pride he took in his work as a custodian to his new role. So much so that he continued to climb the ranks. Going from custodian, to teacher, to assistant principal and now the new principal of Stedman Elementary School. A school he grew up around as a kid.
Atkins told KUSA that as a child he recognized that Black students were treated differently.
"Just the different interactions that I had with the teachers, I had the social intelligence at that time to understand there were differences," Atkins said.
He has made correcting the racial disparities he experienced as a kid his “why.”
"So, what I want for my brown students, my Black students or my white students is to experience diversity at a high level," he said.
With the firsthand experience Atkins acquired growing up, to his unique perspective as a custodian, he’s perfectly positioned to help them do just that.
Congratulations Mr. Atkins!
Photo credit: KUSA screenshot