By: Frances W. Hopkins is Director of the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees Award, as well as Director of President’s Education Awards Program.
A charge: Shine a Light on the staff that have been designed to have such impact within the school walls. These staff are often not highlighted nor recognized nearly enough. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is thrilled, along with the RISE Coalition, to honor one extraordinary education support professional annually and to generate appreciation for all classified school employees under the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award. This is the third year of the award, with nominations from governors and state education agencies, often working together, due by November 1 annually.
ED received 29 nominations from 16 states, including nominations for paraprofessionals, nutrition workers, custodians, security personnel, bus drivers, and other paraprofessionals. Their contributions to schools and students – especially during this latest challenging pandemic year – were remarkable. Peer reviewers noted just how “inspired” we were with all the nominees and expressed hope that more states will participate in nominating in the upcoming year! ED is encouraging every participating state to honor its nominees in their own way.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona ultimately selected Carlene Pacheco, a Paraprofessional, Title VI Liaison, and Family Service Specialist in Churchill County School District, Nevada, who serves all six of the district’s schools. He made the announcement via video.
In addition to her daily duties, Ms. Pacheco serves on the Indian Education Advisory Committee. The mission of the Education Advisory Committee for Native American and Alaska Natives is to support, promote, and assure optimum educational opportunity that is based on tribal cultures and maximize participation in the education of American Indians and Alaskan Natives in Nevada. She makes a positive impact on Native American student learning and graduation rates through offering one-on-one tutoring, classroom support, and after school tutoring.
Ms. Pacheco is a great example of growing up in a community and being part of a program that reaches the most students. She has built a beautiful bridge between the community, Native American Reservation, and schools. The entire community views her as someone to rely on and come to for assistance.
Today, we celebrate Ms. Pacheco for her intentional work of closing the gap of students that were in at-risk of dropping out and providing the needed skills and encouragement to succeed within the schools and beyond. Her example has set the bar high for all classified school employees to help with the success of our students around the nation.
Individuals interested in nominating or applying for the next cycle should contact their Governor’s office to inquire about state-specific process. Governors 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.