Proud of the ESP team

Meet 2022 Monmouth County ESP of the Year Michael Byers

Michael Byers, head custodian at Asbury Park’s Martin Luther King Jr. Upper Elementary School, is arguably one of the hardest-working people in the state. In addition to his responsibilities in Asbury Park, he is also a nighttime custodian at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Neptune City. He averages 18-hour days, seven days a week. When he’s not working, he’s the devoted parent to three children.

Byers grew up in and around Asbury Park schools.

“My father worked in the schools for almost 40 years,” Byers recalled. “My father worked so much that the only way I could spend time with him was by getting up with him and going to school with him while he worked.”

Byers’s father didn’t want him to follow in his footsteps as a custodian. He dreamed his son would go to college, but for Byers, working in the schools was the perfect fit.

“I like the team camaraderie,” Byers said. “I like to work with people. I love the kids. In every kid I see, I see a piece of me. That’s what keeps me motivated: the kids—just to see them and watch them grow. I like being part of making a kid’s future.”

Building relationships

When Byers’s father had a heart transplant, the principal wanted Byers to take over for his father. Ultimately, father and son got to work together for about five years.

Byers recognizes the impact custodians have on students in the schools.

“It’s not always about cleaning floors and cleaning classrooms; you’re building relationships,” Byers said. “These children have issues, and we can help, even as custodians.”

Byers was surprised to be named the 2022 Monmouth County Educational Support Professional of the Year.

“I’ve worked with some of the best people,” Byers said. “I like being on a team. I’m honored and humbled to receive this recognition, but I couldn’t get this without the people I work with. I’ve been blessed with the best people around me, and I want to dedicate the award to the people of Asbury Park and this district.”

A local leader

In addition to everything else on Byers’s plate, he is also the second vice president for the Asbury Park Education Association. He appreciates NJEA’s efforts to recognize support staff for their contributions.

“It’s important to recognize educational support professionals,” Byers said. “When you go to a classroom and you see the paraprofessionals working with the teachers and the security officers monitoring the schools, you can see how the ESPs are the backbone of the district.”

Byers especially appreciates the unseen efforts of nighttime custodians.

“I’m primarily a daytime custodian, but 95% of the work happens at night and those employees don’t get the credit they deserve.“