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Episode 59: The Sweet Story of an Employee and Her Passion for PEZ Dispensers

Prior to the pandemic, the first thing you would find walking into the front office at Oquirrh Hills Middle School was hundreds of PEZ candy dispensers on display in a huge collection that captured the attention of students and visitors alike.

Attendance secretary Kimberly Navratil has been collecting what is called the “candy with character” for years, using it to connect with students in a very sweet way. On this Halloween episode of the Supercast, find out what happens when Superintendent Anthony Godfrey stumbles upon the impressive PEZ collection and gets a taste of the quirky candy originally marketed as a breath mint.


Audio Transcription

Superintendent Godfrey:
Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. On this Halloween edition of the show, we share the sweet story of a Jordan School District employee, and her passion for Pez dispensers. Prior to the pandemic, the first thing you would see walking into the front office at Oquirrh Hills Middle School was hundreds of Pez candy dispensers on display in a huge collection that captured the attention of students and visitors alike. Attendance Secretary Kimberley Navratil has been collecting what is called "the candy with character" for years, using it to connect with students in a very sweet way. Find out why Kimberly loves her growing collection of Pez characters so much and what happens when I get a taste of this quirky candy, originally marked as a breath mint. We're here in the Attendance Office of Oquirrh Hills Middle School, and there's been a lot going on. It's really hard to find a little bit of down time here because it's buzzing and there's a reason it's buzzing. And that is Kim, who works here in the Attendance Office. I'll let her introduce herself.

Kimberly:
I'm Kimberly Navratil. I've been here about six years. I've been in a few other places here at the District, but now am here and loving it.

Superintendent Godfrey:
It's quite a place. And there are a ton of kids going through here. I was amazed at how many kids' names you know. They just walk up and you call them by name. How many kids names do you actually know?

Kimberly:
I don't know. I try to know them. I try to know a lot.

Superintendent Godfrey:
It's impressive because there was no cheating. You just knew people as they walked in. So what are some of the things that you help people with as they come in the attendance office? I'm not sure that people listening realize just the number of different issues that come through.

Kimberly:
We could write a book.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I'm sure you could.

Kimberly:
There are so many issues. Kids who've had water spill on them. Kids who are upset and need to call home. Kids are checking out, checking in. Kids who have been sent down by a teacher and need an excuse, to write an apology letter, all sorts of stuff. Deliveries for students.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So you really get to know what their needs are and what's going on at the school. Part of your success is the very inviting attendance office that you have set up here with hundreds of Pez dispensers, which really speaks to me because I have a few, but I am in the presence of greatness, because this rivals any collection I've ever seen. How many do you have? Do you know?

Kimberly:
I knew I should have known. I have close to a thousand.  They're not all here. Some of them are home.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So there's the permanent collection. And then there's a rotating collection. Is that right?

Kimberly:
Rotating collection. The holidays are rotating. So it's seasonal.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Oh yes. I see a section of Valentines hearts, clear hearts, lady bugs with parts instead of dots. Lots of variety.

Kimberly:
Always fun. And I get new ones all the time, you know? So there's always something different.

Superintendent Godfrey:
How does the Pez collection relate to what you do in the Attendance Office?

Kimberly:
Oh, it's a great conversation piece. Kids love it. Kids will come in and we can easily distract any kind of issue that's going on with, "Have you seen this Pez dispenser?" I show them my favorite one and how it shoots Pez literally across the room. And it distracts everyone from, you know, instantly something different than that.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So it provides a connection to kids and it calms them down and it just gives you something to talk about other than whatever issue they're dealing with. Right?

Kimberly:
Right, which is all the time when you're dealing with teenagers.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Right. If we think back to middle school, we can all think about how tumultuous that time was. All right. Well, can you take us on a little tour of the collection? It looks like Star Wars is a clear favorite is that right?

Kimberly:
Star Wars is the center. It's our central point, of course. And I've received them from different people and there's a meaning behind a lot of these different Pez dispensers and they have a special place in my heart, I guess.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, tell us about some of those.

Kimberly:
Well, I'll start with one of my absolute favorites, which is I have to grabbed it so you can see it. This Home Depot car and it's a Pez dispenser, but I didn't know it was. This cute, cute boy, when he was in seventh grade, he's now a ninth grader here, was standing in line waiting for me. It was crazy day. And he hands me his Home Depot car.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Which is about six inches long. It's like the NASCAR or Home Depot car.

Kimberly:
And, I'm said it's a car. Thanks Jeffrey. And he's like, yeah, yeah, it's a Pez dispenser. And I thought, no way. But sure enough, it's a Pez dispenser and it literally literally will shoot Pez across the room.

Superintendent Godfrey:
You can put candy in there?

Kimberly:
No, no, no, no. Most of these, no candy. I keep candy in the car so that you can share that can shoot.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Can you shoot it across the room and then someone catching it in their mouth?

Kimberly:
Yeah, yeah, we've done that.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Why does that not surprise me in the middle school? I'm not shocked at that.

Kimberly:
You just wind him up. Sometimes it works and sometimes it's just very boring and just pops up out of the hood.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I'm going to take that one. It just wouldn't be right for me to leave it there.

Kimberly:
Yep. So that one is one of my favorites.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I think that one is orange, which tastes like children's aspirin, I must say. Okay.

Kimberly:
You know, that's one thing. I do not even like the candy.

Superintendent Godfrey:
You don't like the candy?

Kimberly:
I don't even like that.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I was going to ask you what your favorite flavor is.

Kimberly:
Yeah. I don't like the candy.

Superintendent Godfrey:
My favorites is Cherry Cola in case you wondered. They have quite a few, quite a variety.

Kimberly:
Yeah, my student aides were telling us about the chocolate ones last semester. They  liked the chocolate ones. So they would come in here and they would eat the chocolate ones.

Superintendent Godfrey:
All right, well.

Kimberly:
So I'll, I'll take their word for it that the chocolate ones are good.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So the Home Depot car is the center.

Kimberly:
Yes.

Superintendent Godfrey:
You have a Stranger Things, Snow White, Wizard of Oz, Scooby Doo, Lord of the Rings, Hello Kitty, Presidents of the United States. President Eisenhower.

Kimberly:
Yeah. I've got some really good ones. I've got Lincoln, which was just given to me about a month ago.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I mean, I like Ike, but I never thought that he would be featured on a Pez dispenser.

Kimberly:
Right? I've got George Washington. I've got the first ones. They, some of them just appeared on my desk one day.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Yeah. I was going to ask you that. Some of them just appear?

Kimberly:
Yes, some of them just appear and I have no idea who left them.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Once people find out that I'm a music fan and that I listened to records, I actually listened to them, then people bring me their collections as they are cleaning out the garage. So I assume it's the same way with this.

Kimberly:
It is the same way I do get, I get moms who bring me a Ziploc bag of those all the time. I try to collect them from anywhere I go. So I have like the state sports over there on the wall.

Superintendent Godfrey
Lots of baseball teams.

Kimberly:
From different places all over the country. Yeah.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So there are really subsets you can collect. I'm going to get all of the Star Wars are all of the baseball right now.

Kimberly:
Right. Or all of the Funko Pop Harry Potters that you know, someone started.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Harry Potter and Funko Pop and Pez combination just blows the collector's mind. I would say pop Pez. The pop has is that it's newer. X-Men too.

Kimberly:
I have Large Minion, and supposedly he talks, but I've never taken him out of his package.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Oh. Are you careful about keeping some in the package? Is that important to you?

Kimberly:
I am. So ones that are from other States, I try to keep in their package.

Superintendent Godfrey:
The ones from other States?

Kimberly:
Like the sports. If I have a duplicate, then I'll take one out. But if I don't have a duplicate, I try to keep it in its box.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Do you buy them from Pez? Do you buy them on eBay? Do you wait for the collection to grow as people bring them?

Kimberly:
People bring them. I have bought some on eBay. I have the Crayola. I have a Crayola package, which my daughter saw that on Amazon. And she said, mom, you work at a school, you need a Crayola Pez

Superintendent Godfrey:
I agree. I have to admire that. You've got Captain Crunch and you've got the Crunch Berry Guy. I mean, it's really something. And the KFC Colonel Sanders.

Kimberly:
I just got that for Christmas. Someone gave that to me for Christmas.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Oh, Smurfs. Look, there's another level.

Kimberly:
And Disney villains.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Yeah. I brought a few, but I have that are extras that are Star Wars. Because I know Star Wars. It looks like that's your favorite. So I've got a few. Now I know that when you're collecting, sometimes the top might be the same, but if the, what do you call the main part of it. the stem or whatever color is different.

Kimberly:
Sometimes.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Now I have one, but I don't think you have. This is a droid from the latest Star Wars Movie. Do you have this one?

Kimberly:
Oh, it's the green. I don't know, which one he is?

Superintendent Godfrey:
The newest, the brand brand new.

Kimberly:
I don't know. I don't know if I do have him.

Superintendent Godfrey:
All right, now you do. And then I just brought a bunch of others.

Kimberly:
That's funny.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I think we should see whether you have these in that form.

Kimberly:
That's hilarious.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Yes. I know. Because even if there's any slight variation.

Kimberly:
He is gross!

Superintendent Godfrey:
He is the grossest I think I've ever seen. It's the Emperor, actually, meant that the actor who played the actor. He was cool. He was a much, much more palatable person.

You do. You do have him, but see what's the color.

Kimberly:
He is gray.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Yeah, this is gray as well. Is that General Prophecy? No, this is General Grievance.

Kimberly:
Let's see. We've got, oh yeah, you do have quite the Star Wars. Don't you?  So some of these guys, you may have all of them. I'm just, I'll be pleased if even that one droid is one that you don't have. There's Yoda with a tan.

Kimberly:
Yes. I even have Yoda with a tan.

Superintendent Godfrey:
You even have Yoda with a clear head.

Kimberly:
I know it's that weird?

Superintendent Godfrey:
Yeah.

Kimberly:
It's a weird collection, yes.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Darth Vader with black. Ewok.

Kimberly:
Ewok. Oh, I think I have Ewok in a set, maybe, but when when we were talking about it once upon a time, guess what?

Superintendent Godfrey:
Oh, my Captain Crunch. Wow. And I thought,

Kimberly:
No, you kept saying Captain Crunch. I I'm assuming that might be one of your favorite cereals. Sut you need a Captain Crunch.

Superintendent Godfrey:
My son and I tried to eat every variety of Captain Crunch. When Christmas Crunch came out, we systematically had every Christmas, French Christmas. Can have this one?

Kimberly:
That's for you. Yes. Yes.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Wow. He will figure prominently in my office. That is fantastic. That's fun. Wow. Thank you. I'll continue the tour. Oh wow. Chick-Fil-A I'm sorry. I keep mentioning these random Pez dispensers and there's one with a gift card attached toit?

Kimberly:
I think it's empty, but yes, the Target one. I was looking for that and the mom found out and she got it for her.

Superintendent Godfrey:
There's a Geico Gecko one. Tell me about that.

Kimberly:
So, the Geico one is one of my favorites. It was from a student first name Justin. Justin was at Herrmann High School and I worked a lot with him. And his mom worked for Geico and she brought it into me at the end of the school year. Like thank you so much for working with my son. And that's always been special, but a few years ago he ended up passing away, which is awful. And so now that's like really special.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Yeah.

Kimberly:
Knowing that that was from him. The Chick-fil-A is from another student, Tenishia. That was really cool too. I mean, it's kind of fun. It gives me a bond or connection with these kids, you know. I go home and sometimes it's so crazy and stressful and just so fast paced that I don't even have a minute to think, but the majority of it is when I go home and II tell my husband, "Oh my goodness, you should have seen this kid today."

Or, you know, this kid finally opened up to me or this kid got sent down because he was in trouble. But I made him write an apology letter to his teacher and he actually did. And it was cute. And it's just so neat, the difference that these kids make in our lives. And and it's just so wonderful. We have a wonderful Special Ed, a couple of classes here. One of them, their homework is everyday to come and say hi to me from their teacher. And it's just so much fun. It's a very fulfilling job, you know? I leave here many nights with my heart full with kids who are just incredible and make a difference.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Yeah. You probably don't look at the clock much during the day.

Kimberly:
Time does fly. The only time we look at the clock is when a kid needs to leave at this time. Did we get them out of here on time?

Superintendent Godfrey:
Making sure they get checked out because the time's going slow.

Kimberly:
What class are we in? But other than that, the time just flies, really fast, really fast.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Stay with us. When we come back, as Principal, Donna Hunter talks about her role in turning Kim into the front office Candy Company.

Stacee:
Hello, I'm Stacee Worthen, the Secondary Counseling Specialist for Jordan School District. Do you know all the ways during school district counselors can help you and your students school counselors play such an important role in our schools? They provide parents with resources to help guide their children in academics. They provide support with the mental and social well-being of students in our school. And if you were in the process of preparing a student for college or just beginning, the conversation of higher education now is a perfect time to reach out to your child's counselor. We can assist with college applications and college readiness. I encourage parents and guardians to schedule an appointment and get to know your student's counselor together. Counselors and parents can help develop plans and strategies for students to succeed long after they leave Jordan School District. Reach out. We're always here to help. You can find us and learn more at counseling.jordandistrict.org.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We're in the Oquirrh Hills Middle School Attendance Office with the five attendance aides.

Students:
I'm Bailey. I'm Carson., I'm Jackson. I'm Orson.

Superintendent Godfrey:
What made you want to be an attendance office aid?

Students:
Kimberly did. I did it last year and I loved it. So I wanted to come back.

Superintendent Godfrey:
What did you love about it?

Student:
I think it's a fun class and I like Kimberly. I like to help out the school with stuff and it's just nice. All the people are really nice. So I just kept doing it.

Student:
I had a friend who was in this class last year and I heard that it was really fun, so I wanted to try it out. And I've been in here earlier a few times and Kimberly's really nice. So he's right. It's fun.

Student:
So I am at the office because Kimberly was, and she's a really nice person and I thought it would be nice to come down here.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Show us in the spirit for our school and to have some fun with other people.

Student:
Awesome. I thought it would've been fun and Kimberly was super nice.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Yeah. Everyone says that. She's nice. That's definitely it. What do you guys think of the Pez?

Student:
It's really coo how many she has.  I've thought about how long has she collected them for, because she has a ton.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I think she has quite a few. Even from the last 10 years. Do you guys ever eat the candy?

Student:
I don't. I just kind of keep them to really look at

Superintendent Godfrey:
Do you have a favorite Pez?

Student:
I do. I like the crayon ones.

Superintendent Godfrey:
The Crayon ones, which color in particular?

Student:
I probably liked the purple.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Yeah. I was liking the orange. So we split the set effectively. How about you? What's your favorite?

Student:
I think I like the Star Wars ones a lot, just because I'm a really huge fan of Star Wars.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Okay. I love the Star Wars ones too. I that's where I collect a little bit is with the sStar Wars ones.

Student:
I like the Star Wars ones too. My favorites are the giant ones that she has. I didn't even know those existed and I think they're pretty cool.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Let's open a Pez snap. It that it snapping back? It makes that noise when you're loading it. Let's load it with some candy. Should we try the sugar cookie? That way you can try it. All right. We're going to open up the sugar cookie. Now there's a real trick to it. If you don't like the candy, you're probably not very good at loading it or are you just tense? So you have to pull the whole body out. And then if you open up the full side of the candy wrappers. Good. Right. You can get them all on hand, but otherwise they go all over the floor. Oh, that does. It's bursting with fruit flavor. Wow. Smells good. How could you be sad and smell that? It can smell good. Yeah.

Student:
I'll give the kids candy sometimes. I'll pull it out and say here.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Can I look at what you have? Cotton candy. I've never tried it. Cotton candy flavor. Orange lemon. Oh, and there's a sugar cookie. What's this one sugar cookie candy. All right. Let's try it again. All right. We're fully loaded. All right, let's try it. Let's try the sugar cookie there and do a taste test. Oh wow. It's like, I can taste the frosting too. Okay. I'm going to have another one. Wow. That sugar cookie is actually pretty good. You sure you don't want to try one?

Kimberly:
Wow. Maybe I'll try one. No, no, no. Oh my goodness. It's not bad.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Taste like the Pillsbury dough boy. Like the rolled up holiday theme. That's what it tastes like, a snowman picture in the middle.

Kimberly:
Yeah. It does taste like that. So where did the idea for collecting Pez come from?

Kimberly:
I held back because everyone I work with has heard me answer because this is a huge question that almost everyone asks me. You know, first they say, is this some weird obsession you have, you know, and what does your husband say?

It started out as a white elephant gift from Donna, who's my current principal now. But we used to work together 10 years ago at Herriman High School. And there were three Pez dispensers in there with a few candy. I put them on my desk because I'm thinking, who gave me these because I have no idea where they came from because there was no signature on it or who it was from and put them on my desk. And next thing I know, people started bringing them in saying, "Oh, you collect Pez. Here you go." And before the week was gone, I was collecting Pez dispensers. They were just being brought in from kids from teachers.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Is it kind of like having one hit song and you're only known for that song and you get kind of tired of playing that in concert? Does it get old being the Pez girl sometimes and I'm sure it is for everyone around me?

Kimberly:
Well, no, I think it's okay.It's funny. It's definitely a conversation piece. And  it really has built bridges. It really has. It's been a great conversation piece and something for kids who just need to talk about something. Or even parents come in and we take a trip down memory lane and next thing you know, they leave and we're BFF, you know, we've had our whole Pez connection.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Yeah. Yeah. Are there Pez conventions or do you travel?

Kimberly:
Just this last year I think I've reached the level of maybe I'm interested in attending.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Wow. Wow.

Kimberly:
My brother lives in Philadelphia and there's one like two hours away from the Pez Museum. I think it's in New Hampshire and Connecticut. It's in Connecticut. Sorry. And they sell Pez there, but it's also a museum. And so I told my brother, next time I come to see you, I'm gonna rent a car and go visit the Pez Museum.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Wow. We may need to do another Supercast episode when you've done that.

Kimberly:
I will let you know.

Superintendent Godfrey:
That said, that's quite remarkable. We're here with the Principal of Oquirrh Hills Middle, Donna Hunter. Donna has been an educator in a lot of different settings and at a lot of different levels. And now Principal of Oquirrh Hills. And I understand you are the person who started this whole Pez business. Tell us the story.

Donna:
Well, it was kind of an accident because what do you usually do with white elephant gifts? I re-gift them. You throw them away. You give them to your kids or whatever. But apparently I must have touched her heart because she put it up on her desk. And all of a sudden they started multiplying and people kept bringing her stuff. And before you know it, she's running out of space and we couldn't believe it. We laughed about it a lot. And it was really fun. And then she left Herriman. She came here and I walked in one day and she was in the front office and it was like this whole great big Pez display that was so impressive. And she says, "Yeah, you started this". And it just has kept going. And now every one of us, we look for Pez dispensers that she's challenged us to find. Now it's defined or something she hasn't seen before. And for some reason we can still come up with more. I don't know who designed the Pez, but they're genius. Absolute genius. Right?

Superintendent Godfrey:
I agree. I was very proud that I was able to find some that she doesn't have, particularly Star Wars. So I felt good. Tad bit jealous on that.

Oh wow. You now you have some bobble heads. Okay.

Donna:
I do. I have bobbleheads and I have other gifts that kids gave me and then toys that I've stolen from my children.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Is it hard to collect in the shadow of Kimberly?

Donna:
You know, I don't know. I don't even want to try to compete with that because the kids have stopped giving me stuff, except for a hard time. They give me a hard time all the time, but they'll never stop giving stuff to Kimberly because everybody loves her.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Yeah. That's no surprise. What's the impact that Kim has on the culture of the school.

Donna:
You mean besides being my guardian angel, she's amazing. I will tell you that she she works so well with kids. They know that they can come see her for a piece of candy. She always gets something out of them for it. They have to be respectful. And she is so kind to parents when they call in with somebody who has a child that is sick. Oh, I how's he doing? You know, we've missed him. And she knows everybody. If I don't know somebody, Kimberly does. And I mean 1300 favorite children, but I don't know all of their names. And I swear to you, she knows everybody.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We witnessed that as I was standing in the office. Just kid after kid came in and she called them by first name, like right off the bat.

Donna:
And that is so valuable. Not only for me, but for the community. And she has recruited people to work here. She has helped. It is so valuable because not only is she part of her school community, she's part of our community and to be able to employ people that are in our area that know our kids makes it even that much more effective. I think she's got a lot of skin in the game.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Have you seen an impact on how kids interact with her and how welcome they feel?

Donna:
You know what? They just know that she's fun. What serious adult wouldn't have a wall full of Pez? Right? Immediately that gives you the clue, that she's going to be friendly and she's going to be fun. And she lives up to that. It's the way  to be approachable. When you see all this molded plastic behind you, with 99.9% sugar in them. That helps. It makes it so this is not a scary place. This is a fun place. It's a welcoming place. And those Pez are going to go down in history. They are part of her legacy. I don't know when she takes him down for the summer, the place looks so bare because she catalogs them during the summer.

Superintendent Godfrey:
You make sure that they're all there. Wow. So she rotates them in and out.

Donna:
Well, they're a made of a durable plastic, so they'll probably outlive us all.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, I'm thinking there is probably at least a thousand here. I can only imagine.

Thanks for joining us on a special Halloween edition of the Supercast. That'd be Halloween. And remember. education is the most important thing you will do today and we'll see you out there.

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