By: Frances W. Hopkins
We are now in Year 3 of the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award, by which the U.S. Department of Education (ED) honors classified school employees. Candidates include individuals who work in schools as: paraprofessionals and in clerical and administrative services, transportation services, food and nutrition services, custodial and maintenance services, security services, health and student services, technical services, and skilled trades.
Nominations from states (governors or their designees) are due to ED by November 1. In addition, members of the public with an interest and background in the work of education support professionals are invited to serve as peer reviewers to select the national 2023 honoree.
The RISE Award was inaugurated in April 2019, when Congress passed the Recognizing Achievement in Classified School Employees Act. The subsequent fall, ED officially launched the first award cycle.
While ED received many inspiring nominations during the 2021-22 contest, one individual stood out. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona selected Ms. Keeley Anderson, an at-risk intervention coach at Newcastle Middle School in Newcastle, Wyoming, announcing her award via a video message.
Ms. Anderson serves in a role that prioritizes students who need additional support to be successful. She oversees her school’s in-school-suspension program. She also serves in a leadership role for the school’s late academic start Wednesday programming. In addition, she pitches in as part of her small, rural district’s summer maintenance department. And, she served as the head varsity volleyball coach for Newcastle High School.
Ms. Anderson became even more critical to her school and community during the COVID pandemic. In addition to her usual duties, she became the key communicator and liaison for students who were placed in quarantine by public health orders, organizing a plan to keep students on track and assisting them through the transition back to classes.
The 2022-23 award cycle’s federal review will take place in November and early December. Interested individuals should contact RISE@ed.gov. Per status, only one nominee is ultimately selected the RISE Award winner, but all states are encouraged to honor and promote their nominees.
Individuals should contact their governor’s office or state education agency to inquire about their state-specific process for nominations. Governors’ staff and state education agency program administrators may contact RISE@ed.gov with any questions and to indicate a state’s plans to participate in the current cycle.
ED looks forward to another year of shining a light on the dedication of education support professionals across the country. During the last few years, the value of their work has become even clearer. We are thrilled to offer federal accolades for these sometimes overlooked school positions that serve the whole child, truly making academic achievement possible.
Frances W. Hopkins is the Director of the RISE Award, and also the President’s Education Awards Program.