School custodian uses a paint brush to make the mundane magical

A mural painted by Lead Custodian Jay Martin at Spring City Elementary School. (Image: Sky Whitmore)

A school custodian in Rhea County is transforming the walls of the building into colorful cartoons.

In this week's Pay It Forward, Jessica Harthorn surprises him at Spring City Elementary School.

Jay Martin's official title at Spring City Elementary is Lead Custodian, but the students and staff call him an artist.

You'll find most days he has a paint brush in his hand.

The halls of Spring City Elementary School are covered in color.

Vibrant splashes of blues and yellows, lovable kids movie characters and messages of encouragement.

Principal Tammy Boles says Lead Custodian Jay Martin got his inspiration nearly four years ago.

"He came and asked me the first time, if he could spruce up the place, and I said OK, I'd like to know what you're going to be doing," said Principal Boles.

Jay did not disappoint.

"It blew me away," said Principal Boles.

Jay transformed the mundane into the magical.

The wall outside the first grade bathroom is now a mural of Dr. Seuss.

Nearly every wall has a different theme.

Substitute teacher Sky Whitmore showed us her favorite.

"It inspires me, because it tells children no matter who you are, you are nice to everybody," said Sky.

Sky and Principal Boles came up with a creative idea too.

Our cameras were rolling as we hid in the back of a classroom.

"Mr. Jay?" called Principal Boles.

"Go ahead," said Jay.

"Can you get to Ms. Whitmore's room for a spill please?" asked Principal Boles.

"Yes Ma'am," said Jay.

Moments later...

"Hello!" said Sky as Jay walked in. "On behalf of Newschannel 9 and the McMahan Law Firm, I'd like to present you $500 for Pay It Forward. Thank you for everything you have done. It's such a blessing to have you here at our school," surprised Sky.

"Wow! Thank you so much!" said Jay.

Mr. Jay couldn't wait to take us for a tour.

He showed us the wall near the library covered with characters from kids' books.

The latest addition was the boy from Wonder.

"They didn't know what it was at first, because they had not read it, but then they wanted to read it, because they saw it on the walls," explained Jay.

We also walked by Jay's Pencil Rescue Center.

And arrived at the emoji challenge outside the boys and girls restrooms.

Each morning, Jay puts a smiley face on each wall. The cleanest bathroom at the end of the day wins.

"I'm hoping this will transfer into middle school to help them take care of those restrooms too, and teach them good habits," said Jay.

Jay says a majority of the paint is donated by school staff, so he adds details to the murals every chance he gets, giving the kids a never ending scavenger hunt, and Jay a continued passion to paint.

Do you know someone who deserves $500 for helping others? Nominate them here!