Everyone at Neubert Elementary just calls him Mr. Brett.
“He’s very personable, loyal and friendly,” teacher Julie Voss said. “He’s a hard worker and he’s always there to help anyone.”
Brett Kincannon has been part of District 300’s custodial department for 35 years and is retiring from Neubert, where he has made an impact on students and teachers everyday.
What has impressed Voss and fellow teacher Katie Zweidinger is Kincannon’s ability to connect with autistic students.
Voss teaches kindergarten to second grade in Neubert’s autism classes. Zweidinger is another teacher in grades 4, 5 and 6.
“If he is working in our room or working in the hallway, he stops to talk to them. He remembers them by name. He asks what they are interested in. He is just a kind and friendly man.” Voss said.
“I think he has a special place in his heart for kids with autism,” she said.
Children with autism don’t always do well with change, Zweidinger said. Even changing a battery in a fire alarm can throw off the students, who can become obsessed with why the light bulb is being changed, Zweidinger said. But Kincannon explains what he is doing and why, which helps ease students’ minds, she said.
“He talks to them on their terms,” Voss said.
Voss experienced Kincannon’s caring side first hand when he helped one of her students. It was difficult to get the child to work so she came up with the idea of giving him stickers. When he got 15 stickers he could watch Kincannon clean the cafeteria floor. The boy loves machines and was fascinated by the Zamboni.
At one point, the boy accumulated more stickers and got to push the Zamboni with his parents’ permission.
The next day the boy came to school wearing a tool belt with tools and a hard hat, Voss said. The boy was able to bond and help Kincannon.
“Our kids can sense when people like them and feel comfortable around them and when people are afraid or cautious,” Voss said. “Mr. Brett just comes in and sits and fits in everyone.”
“He makes it a point of connecting with the students,” Voss said.
As Kincannon prepares to leave Neubert, he is leaving a legacy behind.
Neubert usually has a party for anyone retiring, but Kincannon chose to spend the $500 allotted for retirement parties on donations to Neubert’s library and to an autism awareness charity, the teachers said.
“He always has a positive attitude,” Voss said. “It’s incredible to keep that upbeat personality.”