(In the print version and an earlier website version of this story, Zak's first name was spelled incorrectly. We apologize for the error.)
Faculty and staff of Kosciusko Lower Elementary recently banded together to begin fundraising to purchase a chair in the Skipworth Performing Arts Center in honor of their custodian.
Zak Thomas has been employed by the school system for 24 years. During that time, he has worked at the high school, junior high, bus shop, maintenance, and grounds, but has spent the past seven years at KLE, where he has found his niche.
“Anything that I ask, he is willing and happy to do,” said Michelle Nowell, KLE principal. “He is the first one here every morning to unlock the school, and never misses work. He takes pride in doing everything that I ask.”
During any given day, Thomas might unload paper, clean, work on the grounds, or help in the cafeteria, and he always does so with a smile and good attitude.
In addition to his duties at KLE, Thomas often helps out with the football team and is a huge Whippet fan. The KHS class of ’97 graduate also takes care of the teachers and enjoys helping them out.
“He knows I love sweet tea, and will often bring me some. He takes care of me so much that one of the kids once asked if 'Mr. Zak' is my daddy,” said teacher Angela Parker with a smile.
Teacher Christy Cheek agreed.
“He takes care of us and is always smiling and greets us with that smile every day. I found a quote that applies to him: ‘Kindness is spreading sunshine to people regardless of the weather,’” said Cheek. “Recently Zak was extremely helpful to me when I had the class alone for three weeks when the teacher was out with Covid. He got everything from the cafeteria for me and took things back. His support was invaluable.”
“Even though I’ve known Zak a couple of years, he has been a great support to me this year because I am bringing my grandson in Pre-K with me to school now. Zak is his best friend. He will walk him to class and tell him ‘You better be good.’ He always checks on him,” said teacher Bonita Fuller. “My grandson now calls him ‘Uncle Zak’ and made sure we bought him a Christmas present.”
Teacher Spring Hawkins best summed up Zak’s overall demeanor with a Bible verse.
“I think of John 15:13 when I think of Zak. ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ Zak loves the way Jesus loved, regardless of color or socioeconomic status. He loves the kids and sees you as you. He will do anything for us teachers and is a ray of sunshine to all of us,” she said. “For example, he once bought a t-shirt for a child in my class who could not afford one. He’s just an example of how we all should be,” commented Hawkins.
One of the best examples of Zak’s kindness and love for the school came this past Christmas when the school was decorated for the holidays. The kindergarten hall ended up with more blowups than the first grade hall.
“Zak went and spent his own money at Walmart and bought several large blowups so that the first grade would have as many as the kindergarten,” said Cheek. “On Zak’s birthday, the students usually line up and sing to him, and before it’s over, he is in tears. He takes time to hug each child and call them by name.”
The much-appreciated janitor will be honored when the Skipworth Center is completed.