Wyland custodian does much more than clean

Tuesday, July 16, 2019 | 12:01 AM

Don “Dipper” Howell is the lead custodian at Hampton’s Wyland Elementary School, but does so much more.

“He could actually be considered a public relations person,” building secretary Christine Burd said. “Mr. Howell knows all the kids in the building and even remembers their names when, as older students, they return to Wyland for special events.

“He loves kids, and the kids and parents absolutely love him. He makes the students laugh and he makes them all feel comfortable and at home.”

Burd said when fifth graders leave to move up to middle school, a frequent comment from them is that the person they will miss the most is Mr. Howell.

Howell, 62, the lead custodian since 1996, is known for carrying pockets full of candy and entertaining students with tricks and funny sayings.

“My kids love Mr. Howell,” said parent and food service specialist Lisa Easley. “To me, he is like the Wyland Wonder.

“When kids start at Wyland, Mr. Howell makes sure he learns every kid’s name by the end of the first week. This is awesome because it really makes them feel safe and that they are in an environment they belong in.”

Easley said if Howell sees a kid by himself on the playground, he will go sit with them and get them involved with groups of kids.

Nicole Kinmonth said Howell helped her daughter adjust as a third grader new to the school last year.

“The transition was not an easy one because the majority of those kids have known each other since kindergarten,” Kinmonth said.

Sydney Kinmonth, 9, is entering fourth grade and said she cannot wait to tell jokes with Howell in the lunch room.

“He is so nice and tells super funny jokes,” Sydney Kinmonth said. “Summer is fun, but I miss seeing him everyday.”

Fifth grade teacher Lauren Marshall said Howell is one of the hardest working and friendliest people she has ever met.

“He was one of the first people I met when I started working at the school,” Marshall said. “He was kind, welcoming and helpful immediately.

“He performs his duties as a custodian with expertise and keeps the school running smoothly. Though he is a fantastic custodian, it is his heart for the students and staff that make him amazing.”

Marshall said her students rushed to the window in delight one day when they saw him salting the blacktop in a conductor suit he wore on Polar Express Day.

Response to Instruction and Intervention teacher Katie Wagner said Howell is one of those people who makes you feel comfortable immediately.

“What’s so amazing about him is the relationship that he builds with the students,” Wagner said. “He knows probably 99 percent of the students’ names.”

First grade teacher Susan Rothmeyer admires Howell’s dedication.

“He goes above and beyond everyday making sure Wyland is in the best shape,” Rothmeyer said.

Howell, who is married and has two children and two grandchildren, believes he is paid to be nice.

“You have to do what teachers, staff and kids need,” Howell said.

Howell, who works year-round, said he has retrieved eyeglasses from a sewer drain, retainers from garbage and balls up on the roof for kids.

“I enjoy doing it,” he said.