CINCINNATI -- Every weekday morning for the last eight years, Bob Cook has unlocked the doors of Sands Montessori School at 5:30 and polished the floors until they shine "like glass."
"I come in and do my job so that kids come to a clean school," the longtime custodian affectionately known as "Mr. Bob" said. "I just want to be a role model and hope they come back in 10 years, shake my hand when they go to college, you know?"
Cook was a maintenance supervisor for a large company until his knees made mobility an issue; at Sands Montessori, he says, "The kids make me young again."
He enjoys his job, trading fist-bumps with students, encouraging them to tell him what they learn each day in class and holding an annual cookout for parents, teachers and students to attend.
His school loves him, too -- so much so that they nominated him for Cintas' national Janitor of the Year award.
"Mr. Bob is a really important part of our school community," teacher Sarah Fullen said. "The kids really respect him, too. In a Montessori school, we want to model respect and appreciation, and Mr. Bob does a great job."
And on Thursday, he won. Cook's new title, courtesy of Cintas and the 182,000 votes placed for him online, came with a prize of $5,000 for him and $5,000 for Sands Montessori. According to Cintas marketing manager Jillian Bauer, it's easy to see why the school loves him so much.
"Mr. Bob represents the best of the best," she said. "Not only for his hard work (but for) his attitude, his spirit, his commitment to keep this place safe."
Cook was overwhelmed by the show of appreciation directed not only at him personally, but at his crucial but often-overlooked profession.
"It's really really nice to be recognized for our work," he said.