Nominate outstanding education support staff for the 2021 RISE Award

(FRANKFORT, KY) – The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is accepting nominations of outstanding educational support staff members for the national 2021 Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) Award.

The award, which recognizes classified school employees who have displayed excellence in serving students, was enacted by Congress in 2019 and is overseen by the U.S. Department of Education (USED).

USED is inviting the governor of each state to nominate up to two classified school employees for the award.

“There is so much that our school employees do every day in classrooms, lunchrooms and in getting our children to school to ensure they have the safest and healthiest environment to learn in,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “I would put our employees up against anyone in the nation and I’m looking forward to recognizing Kentucky’s best for all they do for our children.”

Gov. Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman have put together a RISE Award committee comprised of key education stakeholders who will review and score the nominations.

“We know that each of our schools is made up of a team, and every member of this team is critical to the success of students,” Coleman said. “However, the hard work and dedication of our classified employees sometimes goes unrewarded. Gov. Beshear and I believe that in these difficult times, we must recognize all those that have gone above and beyond to help students and make a difference in their communities.”

Classified school employees work in dozens of roles, from clerical, maintenance and operations, food service and computer services to classroom aides.

“Each and every one of these workers contributes to the overall quality of education and the success of our students,” said Kentucky Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass. “Though their work might at times go unseen, our schools could not run without them. It is important that they are recognized, and particularly now as they continue to excel through one of the most unprecedented eras our education system has ever seen.”

Nominees must illustrate excellence in all the following areas:

  • Work performance
  • School and community involvement
  • Leadership and commitment
  • Local support (from co-workers, school administrators, community members, etc.)
  • Enhancement of classified school employees’ image in the community and in schools

The nomination period will close at 11:59 p.m. ET on Oct. 15 and nominations can be submitted online. Individuals, local educational agencies, school administrators, professional associations, labor organizations, educational service agencies, nonprofit entities, private schools and their representatives, parents, students and other groups can submit up to two nominees each for consideration.

The top two applicants will receive the Kentucky 2021-2022 Education Support Staff Professional Award. Gov. Beshear also will forward by Nov. 1 the two names to USED as Kentucky’s nominees for the national RISE Award.

The U.S. Secretary of Education then will select a single classified school employee from among all the nominees to receive the national RISE Award by spring 2022. 

Last year was the inaugural year for the award and Robert Walker, a school safety and wellness coordinator in Harrison County, and Shelly Thomas, a family resource center coordinator in Barren County, were selected to represent Kentucky in the national competition.

Kentucky has more than 46,000 classified school employees who work in state’s schools and districts.

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