Being born and raised in Tamaulipas, Mexico, Angelina San Juan was not afforded the opportunity to go to school, but now as head custodian at Brandon Elementary, she’s the first one to open the building every morning.
She said, “I never went to school. It’s always been my dream to go to school.”
Mrs. San Juan became a maid at age ten and taught herself how to clean houses to help out her family. Learning that skill allowed her to work her way to Lufkin ISD becoming a head custodian, and one who trains custodians new to the district.
“It was very difficult because I lost my mom when I was four. When we came to the United States, everything changed,” she said.
She met her husband at age twelve in Mexico and was married three years later. She said that many people married young especially since she and her siblings needed someone to take care of them.
She said, “Sometimes circumstances in life put you on that road.”
She came to the United States in her twenties. The couple ended up in Lufkin following a pastor when they lived in Alamo, Texas.
She said, “He was coming here to start a church, so we joined the congregation.”
Some of her first jobs in Lufkin were at Livewell Athletic Club keeping the building clean. She worked at HEB sacking groceries and working in the deli. She’s been with Lufkin ISD ten years, nine of those years at Brookhollow Elementary. Her first year was at Lufkin Middle School. Her favorite part of her job is serving and helping kids.
She said, “You have to have patience. I love working around kids and being around kids.”
Mrs. San Juan begins her day at 6 a.m. when she opens the doors and checks the building to make sure everything is ready for when the teachers and students arrive. There are three custodians at Brookhollow Elementary, and they each have their area to keep clean.
She said the reason she loves working at Brookhollow is for the opportunities for growth and that it is a very respectful community. She takes a lot of pride in her work.
Her workday ends at 2:30 p.m., but Mrs. San Juan isn’t just keeping the school clean. She’s teaching life lessons to the students.
She said, “One day I heard a girl crying in the bathroom so I asked her what was wrong. She told me she didn’t want to come to school. I asked her what if I didn’t want to come to work? She said then who would open the school? I said that is my job and your job is to come to school. You are the future.”
When she’s not giving advice to students or mopping the cafeteria, Mrs. San Juan likes to spend her time resting, dancing, and cooking. She and her husband both enjoy going out and dancing. She also has four grown children who have three kids each totaling twelve grandchildren. She loves to travel and even mentioned a holiday tradition where on New Year’s she takes a suitcase outside and says “Hi, Bye, I’ll See You” to ensure that she’ll have lots of traveling days in the year ahead. She has a son in the army who lives in North Carolina who she drives to go see.
Mrs. San Juan loves to cook and does so just about every night. Her favorite meal to make is rice and charro beans. Occasionally, she’ll go out to Cheddars or LaUnica. She brings her own lunch that sometimes includes sliced cactus in pinto beans and ground beef, a family favorite.
Mrs. San Juan has a special connection with the students at Brookhollow Elementary.
She tells the story of a boy who came to school upset and how she got him to talk to her about what was going on about a confrontation with his brother. She tells him that everything is going to be ok, just tell him your sorry and that it will be fine. She said there are lots of days like that where she’s giving advice and words of wisdom.
The floors are squeaky clean, and the campus smells good because of the great job she does for the school; but her best work is her involvement in caring for students.
She said, “I just tell them to talk to Ms. Angelina. Just talk to me, and they do.”
Mrs. San Juan, keep up the great work of keeping our campuses clean and our students nurtured by your wisdom. Thank you for taking time to talk to our students and so much more.