Custodian teaches students to keep school clean by recycling, gardening and conservation
In a world turned upside down by a pandemic, Nancy Stoy continues to be an innovator for students at Lacamas Lake Elementary.
The 57-year-old custodian doesn’t just follow children around with a mop, she tells them to grab a broom and a rag and learn the value of keeping their school clean by recycling, gardening, and conserving energy, food and supplies.
“I look at all the students we have. If we keep going the way we’re going, they’re not going to have a green planet. They’re not going to really have a future,” Stoy said. “I want to teach these kids to be conscious of the world around them and to make the Earth a better place to live. Not only for them but for future generations.”
Stoy’s sustainability practices for the past 15 years have not gone unrecognized. On Friday, she received the Green Apple Award from Clark County Green Schools.
“She is just a true leader. I walk into the building and I see students gathering around her asking what they can do to help,” said Michelle Sanow, Environmental Outreach Specialist with Clark County Green Schools.
“Nancy doesn’t seem to ever quit. She’s always thinking about the next thing we can do. What’s the next best improvement? What’s the next category we can certify in? What’s the next thing to learn?” Sanow added. “Even when Nancy probably certifies in every category and has won every award, she’ll still continue finding things that can be improved. That’s just her heart and her character.”
Story’s Green Team ranges from 25 to 50 students per year. It has gotten so popular, she has separated them into different groups. The cleaning team helps Stoy set up and take down the tables in the cafeteria every day. The recycling team separates garbage into the appropriate bins. The gardening team learns how to grow their own food. And the energy team strives to conserve electricity in the building.
“Nancy exemplifies the best of who we want to be in Camas everyday,” said Superintendent Jeff Snell. “The biggest difference she makes is in the lives of kids. She’s launched their desire to be scientists, their desire to be curious and their desire to serve others.”
Even the coronavirus pandemic couldn’t stop Stoy from saving the world. She reached out to the students on Zoom and created conservation projects they could do from home. Stoy also contacted members of Clark County Waste Connections and they led the students through a virtual tour of the transfer station.
“Some Green Team leaders are teachers, so they already had that contact with the students. But for Nancy being a custodian, she didn’t have any connection set up with the students,” Sanow said. “To see Nancy take that initiative, get past the technical barriers, learn new things and continue to inspire her students inspired all of us.”
Stoy was blown away by the projects the students came up with from home.
“I think the home school project was the best thing ever,” she said. “Whether we’re together or apart, these kids can make a difference in this year. And they have learned that this year.”
Lacamas Lake Elementary School Principal Julie Mueller appreciates how Stoy gets students involved in her “fun.”
“Sometimes her fun is washing tables. Sometimes her fun is sweeping the floor. Sometimes her fun is sorting recycling and garbage. Or her fun is pulling weeds, and she pulls our kids along,” Mueller said. “Nancy finds the fun in work, doing what’s right, being a servant in the community and taking pride in what you do. She’s just a model for that, and kids want to be a part of it.”
The Green Apple Award isn’t going home with Stoy. It’s going in the trophy case at the school. She hopes she can push that mop around for another 10 years and sweep future Leopards up in all the fun.
“This award means our school is recognized for helping the planet. It not only recognizes me but it recognizes the students,” Stoy said. “They’re the ones who pretty much do all the work. This is an award for them more than it is for me.”
Clark County Green Awards
The Clark County Green Awards is an annual celebration recognizing sustainability work being done by individuals, organizations and businesses in Clark County. The awards presented are:
- Green Apple Award: For an individual involved in school (public or private) sustainability initiatives, projects and programs.
- Green Business of the Year: For a small business (25 or fewer employees).
- Green Business of the Year: For a large business (more than 25 employees).
- Green Business of the Year: For a nonprofit or government agency.
- Green Neighbor of the Year: For an individual resident who goes above and beyond in modeling green living.
- Master Composter Recycler Superstar: For a Master Composter Recycler program volunteer who goes above and beyond to teach others in the community to reduce waste and live sustainably, selected by previous winners of the award.
To read about the 2021 Green Award winners, visit clarkgreenneighbors.org/en/green-awards