Custodian keeps Snoqualmie schools clean, for 18 years and counting

October 13, 2011

By Staff

In her own way, Allison Turnbull is a celebrity.

“When you are out in public and the little kids notice you,” said Turnbull, the custodian at Chief Kanim Middle School for the past 10 years, “it’s pretty cute. ‘We won our game, we won our game.’”

Before arriving at Chief Kanim, Turnbull took care of Snoqualmie Middle School, the Hawks’ rival school. Few children know about it so she does not get too much flak. Besides, it’s been a decade since she last worked across enemy lines.

“The principal now was an eighth-grade teacher then,” she said.

Allison Turnbull, custodian at Chief Kanim Middle School. By Sebastian Moraga

Sometimes, she still gets some mouthy students — she works at a middle school after all — but she gets along fine sailing the pre-teen oceans for a living.

“You get all kinds of different kids,” she said. “The good ones make up for the bad ones.”

To hear Turnbull tell it, Chief Kanim has a surplus of the former and just a sprinkle of the latter.

She said it all starts at the top. Principal Kirk Dunckel is really good at teaching children how to treat adults, no matter who they are.

“She’s the best custodian I’ve had work for me,” Dunckel said. “She’s a hard worker, very dedicated and very responsible.”

Dunckel said the teachers and staff have expectations of the children’s behavior and they are reminded constantly of it.

Turnbull is one of Dunckel’s “right hands,” she said.

“I rely on her observations,” he said.

Another factor could be the fact that after 20 years not too many things get under her skin.

“You have to have a lot of patience,’” she said. “There’s a lot of kids and you got to know when to hold your tongue.”

Dunckel agreed.

“She’s been around middle school kids a long time and has had kids of her own. She knows how they can be,” he said. “She doesn’t get too cold or too hot, she knows exactly how to be.”

Turnbull has two children. One is a floor supervisor at Nike and another is a manager at an Arby’s.

With her two children now out of school, Turnbull said she relishes every success of students who once watched her work and have now moved on to high school and beyond.

“I don’t get sentimental,” she said. “I’m more like ‘Right on, they graduated!’ A few of them you’re shocked they graduated.”

The reason Turnbull doesn’t get sentimental may just be she does not have time to. Besides Chief Kanim, she’s the custodian at five city of Snoqualmie buildings.

“I like to be busy,” she said. “It makes the day go faster.”

Busyness aside, she said she hopes to retire someday. Until then, she hopes to stay at the middle school level. No little children for her, and definitely not big children.

“High school kids, they can slap ya,” she said. “When they get that age, they are too intimidating.”

One little child whose success she does track closely is her grandson, a student at North Bend Elementary School.

Bemused, she said her grandson might end up at Twin Falls Middle School instead of at Grandma’s workplace. She said she’s been trying to entice the boy, nonetheless.

“I told him he can move in with us,” she said. “And go to Chief Kanim.”


Sebastian Moraga: 392-6434, ext. 221, or

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