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Boone County’s Michael Johnson Awarded KEA’s ESP of the Year for Outstanding Contributions to School, Community, and Profession


Michael Johnson, head custodian of Boone County Schools, is KEA’s 2022 Education Support Professional of the Year. The award is presented each year to a KEA ESP member who demonstrates outstanding accomplishments and contributions to public education.


“It is great to receive such an honor,” said Johnson. “A lot of people in our positions don’t get recognized for our work. I didn’t accept this award for myself. I accepted the award for our building and for all the ESPs for doing what they do. They go above and beyond and knowing what this award means to them is the most rewarding part.”


As an ESP, Johnson leads the custodial staff for the Ignite Institute in Erlanger, Kentucky. Ignite was the first STEAM-focused high school in Kentucky specializing in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. Johnson and his fellow custodians work to ensure the staff and students are able to teach and learn in a safe, healthy, and secure environment. Ignite’s 180,000-square-foot learning community includes collaboration spaces, video production areas, robotics labs, makerspaces, and science labs, so high-quality, consistent, custodial work is at a premium.


“Mike came to Ignite in 2020, and after just six months the entire team knew he was the right choice for head custodian,” said Jerry Gels, principal of Ignite. “It’s known throughout the district that he has an ability to foster relationships and make schools better. In a modern and unconventional building like Ignite, it would not be possible to operate without that skill base that Mike has fostered with his custodial staff.”


Johnson’s dedication to the school, staff and students also shows in his willingness to go the extra mile in everything he does. He has helped raise thousands of dollars for the school’s robotics team—which just last week won the VEX World Championship in Dallas. He also volunteers to work events like Fright-Night and Winterfest, according to school secretary Jenni Kentrup.

“He does a really wonderful job making sure our event area looks its best. If there’s a late-night issue the first person on the scene is Mike Johnson. He is wonderful and we are so lucky to have him.”

Johnson graduated from Boone County High School in 1992 and has been a head custodian in the school district since 2012. He is invested in the work he does for the school system and in the children who attend there for very personal reasons.

“My father was severely abusive, and I knew I was going to make a change from that life. I thought about how I could make it better for somebody else, and Boone County Schools has allowed me to do that and be me,” said Johnson. I’m blessed to work with the people I do—administrators, teachers and mostly my fellow classifieds.”

As a member of the board of directors and building representative for the Boone County Classified Employees Association, Johnson ensures his fellow ESPs unite their voices to advocate for issues that support public schools and public-school students.

In addition to being the 2022 KEA ESP of the Year award winner, Johnson was a 2019 finalist for the FRED award from the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, which honors a “support staff member . . .  who are the heart and soul of our public schools today.” He was awarded the Boone County Schools “Break the Mold” Award in 2019. That award is given to an individual within the school community who is “an exemplary non-certified support staff or volunteer, including classified support staff, who chooses to make a positive difference each day, has a heart for people, changes ordinary moments into memorable ones, and leads by example.” Johnson serves his community as well. He is a Special Olympics volunteer and a member of the Knights of Columbus.

“Michael Johnson embodies what an ESP in Kentucky strives to be,” said Eddie Campbell, KEA President. “He is dedicated and involved with the students, the school, his community, and his profession, and works to make each of them better. We are so very proud of him; he deserves this award for all of the devoted and tireless work he has done to support public education.”

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