ABOUT THE FINALIST
Years at school: East Ridge Elementary
Years in education: 14 years
Education: Howard, 1997; Tennessee Carpentry Union, 2002; Miller-Motte, massage therapy, 2005.
Family: Two children, Tmetrius, 7; Treyvious, 5.
"He's the one person that can connect to everybody in the school, from students to faculty and staff." - Jennifer Rimback, East Ridge Elementary School Counselor
Smiley is a licensed carpenter and massage therapist.
Patrick Smiley wakes up at 4:30 each morning and arrives to do his daily duties at East Ridge Elementary School. From the time he walks in the door at 6 a.m., he has no clue what those responsibilities might end up including.
But the best part is, at the end of the day, he's just doing what he's always wanted to do - work with kids.
"I just appreciate that I'm able to come in and work with kids," Smiley, the school's janitor, said. "That's what keeps me going - the kids and staff, and making sure they're safe."
It's a job he doesn't take for granted. He is often seen around the school settling disagreements between students, joking with kids and staff alike, while always being around if one of the students has a problem.
At times, Smiley has been asked to use his other skills and abilities to help others. In one particular case, a student was in gym class with a shoe that the bottom had fallen off of. The shoe was brought to Smiley, who is also a licensed massage therapist and carpenter.
"I don't know what he did, but he left for a few minutes and when he came back, the shoe was fixed," school counselor Jennifer Rimback said.
Said Smiley: "I had some bonding glue in the truck, so I just took it outside and fixed it."
That's just one of many stories that highlights both the heart and abilities of Smiley, Rimback said. All just underscore the bottom line - the 1997 Howard graduate is a valuable asset to the school.
"East Ridge Elementary is such a huge building, and since he's the main custodian, he has a big job," she said. "He's warm and personable, and most of the staff, parents and kids know him. Every day, you see him high-fiving, smiling, and fist-pumping.
"He's the one person that everybody can relate to, from students to faculty and staff. He goes the extra mile and shows so much patience to the kids."
It's a sentiment shared by the school's music teacher, Charlene Cook.
"He's respectful to everybody and will do whatever he can do at all times," Cook said. "He's always the first person in the building and has things ready to go.
"We have over 850 children, and it's incredible how many names of the children he knows," she said.
In his free time, Smiley spends time with his two children. He coaches Little League baseball, working with the Carver Center and Chattanooga Parks and Recreation. As a father, he has a keen interest in the Hamilton County Schools.
"You have to make sure the kids get proper learning. All of the teachers should be on the same level," he said. "It can't just be that one school does things one way and another school does it another way."
Those days that start at 4:30 in the morning might not end until late in the afternoon or early evening, but for Smiley, it doesn't matter because he's doing what he wants to do.
"A lot of people don't take the time to show support to others. They just do their job and go home," he said. "I just think that if you show support to others, they'll show it back to you."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.