New custodian joins cleaning staff

Giovanni Soriano discusses his new job and being Deaf

Electronically published by Cameron Patel, Arts and Entertainment Editor on March 5, 2022

Giovanni Soriano just before he starts work. He is the newest custodian, having started in January 2022. (Emma Steinberg)

With a smile visible even above his mask, Giovanni Soriano has a warm and welcoming personality. Since he started working in January, he can be found cleaning the cafeteria or halls after school.

Soriano was not always a custodian. His previous jobs primarily involved food preparation.

“Before Ballard, I worked in the cafeteria at Robert Eagle Staff Middle School. When COVID-19 hit, I was working in food preparation for a fabric company in SoDo,” signed Soriano.

His history in food preparation is not a coincidence, rather, it is actually part of his broader career goals.

“I want to become a chef,” signed Soriano. “Outside of work, I am also taking community college classes in ASL [American Sign Language].”

Soriano is Deaf, and because he grew up in El Salvador, his first languages were Spanish and Salvadoran Sign Language. Since moving to the United States, he has been learning ASL.

“I am currently at level five in my ASL classes,” signed Soriano. “But since COVID-19, my progress has slowed. Learning online has been difficult.”

ASL levels vary by program, but level five is typically reached after several years of learning. Understandably, learning online is difficult, and doing so when trying to achieve fluency is even harder. Thankfully, learning the ropes for his new job has been a more positive experience.

“I am an assistant custodian,” signed Soriano. “I started training in January, and I like my work.”

Being Deaf can present unique challenges with his job, especially in a school setting.

“If students try to talk to me, I cannot hear them. They may think I am ignoring them, but I am not,” Soriano signed.

He hopes that students will understand that he is Deaf, so if his back is turned, he will not know they are talking to him. Masks can also make understanding more difficult for him.

“I can’t see people’s mouths with the masks, so I can’t lipread. That makes things harder,” signed Soriano.

There are also some benefits to being Deaf as a custodian.

“I can’t hear the loud machines,” signed Soriano. “That’s a positive.”

His other favorite part of working as a custodian is less about the actual job and more about his family.

“I like bringing home money for my family,” signed Soriano. “That is my favorite part of my job.”

He works long hours, but he still has plenty of hobbies outside of his work.

“I love learning. ASL is my favorite class in college,” signed Soriano. “I also like watching movies and hiking.”

He also welcomes students to come and sign with him when he’s not busy working. He looks forward to meeting everyone at Ballard in the coming months.