“When you’re cleaning, they [people] look at you like you’re nothing. As if you — you know, as if you don’t have an education,” said Debra L. Plez, custodial manager at Florida International University, as she shared her experience as a janitor.
Plez first joined FIU as a janitor on Oct. 18, 1996. She has faced many challenges — including the time a woman got sick and left the restroom a mess. The following day, the same situation occurred in the men’s restroom, making the FIU janitor break down in tears.
Plez set out to make the team of janitors feel significant. She pushed herself to become a supervisor. “I took it to another level. I’m a manager now,” she said.
She teaches her team how to face difficulties and helps them overcome their own challenges. Plez makes it her goal for them to recognize their importance to the university. “I tell them [the custodian team] they are the U in FIU,” she said.