Custodian’s simple gesture beloved by generations of students

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SCITUATE, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s about 8:15 in the morning and Jeff Spicer stands at the ready.

“It’s a good jump start for the children in the morning,” he explained. “It gets them psyched up.”

Spicer is talking about his daily routine of greeting students who arrive at Clayville Elementary School in Scituate with a signature high five.

Each student bounding off the bus is not only ready, but eager, for their chance to say, “Good morning,” to the beloved custodian.

“They all seem to know when they get off the bus it’s high five time,” he said.

Spicer has been a custodian at the school for three decades, but talk to anyone inside Clayville, including Principal Courtney Francis, and they’ll tell you Spicer does so much more than his job title implies.

“He is someone we can always count on,” Francis said. “He’s the greeter of children, he’s the tie-er of shoes, he helps out in the lunchroom, he builds snowmen — I mean, you name it, he does it. So, I think he’s a community-builder at heart. He’s really special for that reason.”

Spicer’s dedication and enthusiasm caught the attention of Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green during her visit to the school in August.

A picture of her with Spicer was posted to the Department of Education’s Facebook page with a caption about his high fives that read in part, “It’s a small gesture but it makes a big impact on school culture. We need more Mr. Spicers in the world!”

Those at Clayville all describe Spicer in the same way: a hard-working, unsung hero whose dedication to the school and its pupils is in his blood.

Jeff Spicer as a child waiting at the bus stop. (Submitted photo)

Spicer’s roots at Clayville run deep: he himself was a student there. He said not much has changed — aside from a lack of cows still roaming the field across the way — but he realizes how much time has passed when he sees new, albeit familiar faces.

“The best part of it all is when you see kids that came here and now they have children that go here,” he said.

Spicer estimates he’s given thousands of high fives over the years, and he doesn’t plan to stop doling them out anytime soon.

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