‘It’s hard work, but it’s fun’

For 15 years, Antonietta Cioffi has worked tirelessly to keep her public school running – including cleaning out the building’s basement when it flooded during last month’s storm.

| 18 Oct 2023 | 12:41

Antonietta Cioffi came to America when she was four. Her family migrated from Italy, and settled in Little Italy. “I didn’t feel the stigma [of being an immigrant child]. For my parents, they didn’t have to worry about going to the store and not being understood. It was harder going outside the neighborhood.”

Education and hard work were some of the values that Cioffi’s parents instilled in her and that she has tried to impart to her grown children. “I remember my Dad saying, ‘If you’re not working outside, you have to work in the house.’”

When Cioffi first started working at Samuel Gompers Industrial High School, she was helping out wherever she could. She does an array of tasks, from cleaning and handyman work to secretarial duties.

She found the job by asking the cleaning staff at her daughter’s school if they knew of any openings. Fifteen years later she is still working there, greeting the kids and chatting-it-up with co-workers–but it’s not all sunshine.

During the flood last month, the basement of the school was filled with water and there were leaks in exits, staircases, and classrooms. Similarly, when winter comes, Cioffi is knee-deep in work with the snow. “They [students] make messes and destroy school property,” said Cioffi after a big sigh. “Sometimes the kids get angry and will punch glass–that’s a pain in the neck sometimes. They will also clog toilets with toilet paper thinking it’s funny and throw food in the cafeteria. They’re pretty destructive that way.”

Outside of work, Cioffi does more cleaning and cooking at home.

“My father’s mother gave birth to 17 children so I have a large family. I like spending time with them and the parties they have. We just went apple picking two weeks ago.”

Back at work, within the administration and custodial engineer department, Cioffi always tries to “keep the peace.”

“Our department is a team and we respect each other. I love helping them. It’s hard work, but it’s fun and we all like each other–that’s the good part.”

“Don’t mistake kindness for weakness,” said Cioffi with a smile.