By Andrea Suarez Falken, Director of the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees Award
Feeling the love this month? Initiated by Congress in 2019, the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees recognition award is intended to honor one extraordinary education support professional annually and to generate appreciation for all classified school employees. This is the second year of the award, with nominations from governors and state education agencies, often working together, due by November 1 annually.
Even under another year of pandemic circumstances, ED received 25 nominations from 15 states for the RISE award including nominations for paraprofessionals, nutrition workers, custodians, security personnel, bus drivers, and other paraprofessionals. Their contributions to schools and students—especially during this challenging pandemic year—were remarkable. The 18 internal and external reviewers remarked just how “in love” we were with all the nominees! For this reason, ED has encouraged every participating state to honor its finalists.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona ultimately selected Ms. Keeley Anderson, at-risk intervention coach, at Newcastle Middle School, in Newcastle, Wyoming for this honor, announcing the award in this video.
Ms. Anderson, a paraprofessional, serves in a role that prioritizes students who need additional support to be successful. She oversees Newcastle Middle School’s in-school-suspension program. She serves in a leadership role for the school’s late academic start Wednesday programming. In addition, she pitches in as part of the small, rural district’s summer maintenance department. She also served as the head varsity volleyball coach for Newcastle High School until recently, when her first child was born.
Keeley Anderson has become even more critical to her school and community during the COVID pandemic. During this time, 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.
Today, we celebrate Ms. Anderson for demonstrating work ethic and creativity in her service as an exceptional paraprofessional. We use her example to remind us of the critical work of all classified school employees in supporting student success. This February, we encourage you to show some love to an education support professional in your community that has touched your life.
Individuals interested in nominating or applying for the next cycle should contact their governor’s office to inquire about state-specific process. Governors’ office and state education agency program administrators may contact RISE@ed.gov with any questions and to indicate a state’s plans to participate for the coming cycle.