Sarah Montoya, Daytime Custodian
Nampa High custodian Sarah Montoya gets a little choked up when she recalls running into a former student one day while stopping for a bite to eat.
“It was a couple of years ago, and my mom had just gotten out of the hospital,” she recalls. “We stopped at Panda Express, and the girl checking us out wouldn’t let us pay. She said it was because of all that I have done and am doing at Nampa High.”
What she has done and is doing includes cleaning the 700 building, picking up trash, and keeping the gym floor in tip-top condition – among many other tasks.
“My job is to make the students proud of their school” she says. “Nampa High is my old school, and these are my people and my kids.”
She admits to being a bit of a mother hen when it comes to the students. She loves to spoil them a little and show that she cares. She keeps a bag of candy in her office and occasionally throws pieces out to the kids.
“Someday I’d like people to remember that I really loved my job and I cared,” she said. “And maybe also that I’m a little bit crazy.
Sarah grew up in Nampa, attending Parkview and Lakeview elementary schools, the brand-new West Junior High and finally, Nampa High. Her mother still owns the home she purchased in 1967 when the family moved here from Michigan.
Sarah remembers working for a couple of years at the State School and Hospital, starting when she was 13. It was there that she realized that maybe she wasn’t cut out for her childhood dream of becoming a nurse. She just had too much empathy and felt others’ pain too intensely. “My biggest weakness is that I care too much,” she said.
So she decided to focus on traditional Idaho summer jobs like picking fruit in the apple orchards, detasseling corn, and working at a carnival in Nampa, where she met her future (now ex) husband.
Sarah has four grown children – three girls and a boy – who light up her life, as well as 15 grandchildren and one great-grandson who is 19 months old.
A favorite memory is traveling across the United States in 1987 in a pickup and camper with four young kids. The family spent seven months in Biloxi, Mississippi, while her husband worked on the highway, and enjoyed seeing exciting big cities like Washington, D.C., which small-town Sarah said was “fun, except for all the people.”
The family also took some time to work the Oklahoma State Fair. Sarah cooked meals out of her small camper to feed 50-100 carnies each day, while her kids roamed the fair and the rides. Her oldest, just 10 at the time, ran the merry-go-round.
Sarah raised her kids mostly in Powell, Wyoming, where she worked as the first female head custodian for the 60,000-square-foot high school gymnasium. People didn’t think a woman could do that job, but she proved them wrong. She also found that getting to know the athletes and their parents was a bright spot in her life.
“Before that, I was shy and quiet. It brought me out of my shell.”
After moving back to Nampa, she took a job with ABM, which provides custodial service for the Nampa School District. She is still considered an expert when it comes to gym floors and is the go-to custodian when any district gym floors need help.
“I even got a call when I was traveling to Montana,” she recalled. “I was asked to stop in Blackfoot to help them fix a problem with the gym floor.”
Because so many community members attend high school games, she believes the condition of the gym floor is a direct reflection on the school as a whole. “I want people to be proud of their schools,” she said. “If the gym floor doesn’t look good, the rest doesn’t look good.”
When she’s not caring for the school or the gym, you’ll find Sarah crocheting blankets for her kids and grandkids, baking cookies for her many friends (she makes 250-300 dozen cookies each holiday season to give away), or riding on the back of her brother’s bike during a motorcycle rodeo competition.
While she doesn’t ride herself (“I have no balance”) she does enjoy the sport and even has a tattoo featuring the name of the family motorcycle group – the Stony Creek Knuckleheads. Stony Creek is the street she grew up on in Michigan and Knuckleheads is what her dad always called his kids. Her brother designed the crest when she was a teenager.
If she had a do-over in life, she’d tell herself to stay in school and graduate instead of waiting until age 55 to earn her GED. She also wishes she had traveled more to places like Alaska, Hawaii and Europe.
And if she had $10,000 to spend on something fun? “I’d pay for kids’ lunches, buy more chocolate to hand out at work and go to a store to buy a kid something that they really, really wanted.”
Remember when she decided she cared a little too much to be a nurse? Yeah, she’s still got that heart.