MEDIA RELEASE: Giving Thanks to Our School Staff: Maine Honors RISE Award Finalists

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) today announced the finalists for the recently enacted, national Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) Award. This new award, passed by the United States Congress in 2019 and overseen by the U.S. Department of Education, honors classified school employees who provide exemplary service.

“Maine’s students are our future. As the daughter of a public school teacher myself, I know that it takes a team of dedicated, caring people to give our kids the tools, knowledge, and skills needed to set them up for success said Governor Janet Mills. “These seven nominees embody that hard work and dedication. On behalf of the people of Maine, I extend our thanks for all they are doing for their school communities and students.”

RISE Award nominations were submitted this fall from across the state by local educational agencies, school administrators, educators, professional associations, nonprofits, parents and community members. Two of the seven finalists have been selected as Maine Honorees, and have been submitted to the U.S. Department of Education to be considered for the national RISE Award, which is expected to be named in the Spring 2021.

“I am elated to celebrate these unsung heroes of our schools, who work tirelessly, and often behind the scenes, to support the students of Maine,” said Commissioner of Education Pender Makin.  “Their stories illustrate the important impact a person can make in an entire school community, and most importantly in the lives and success of students.  I cannot thank enough these seven nominees, and all Maine school employees, for all the daily miracles they create.”

Maine’s RISE Award honorees and finalists will be acknowledged with an official letter from the Commissioner of Education. They will also be spotlighted individually in the Maine DOE Newsroom and through its official social media sites.

Maine RISE Award Honorees

Betty Newman
Director of Food Services
Woodland Elementary and Woodland Junior/Senior, AOS 90 Baileyville

Nominator Janice Rice (Colleague): “Mrs. Newman has always been an extremely hard worker for our school but when the school had to go remote learning because of Covid-19, she stepped it up. She had the ability to transform her two-school service for grades pre-k – 12 into a program that went mobile, serving over 200 children 14 meals a week. With only a staff of three to cook and package meals, she seamlessly transformed her school-based food serve program into a program that fed the families of Baileyville. At the end of the first week of service, she was feeding around 95 students, she was not content to leave it at that. She promoted her program by calling families and using social media to get the word out.”

Bonnie Fortin
Administrative Assistant
Moscow Elementary School, MSAD 13

Nominator Wendy Belanger (Colleague): “There are very few people that make an impact in the way Bonnie does in a school. She is the core of our school community. She is so approachable and often after a child has moved on from our school, parents and caregivers will still reach out to Bonnie for information and assistance with numerous things. She is always willing to assist them. Moscow Elementary is very lucky to have her.”

RISE Award Finalists:

Andrew Hutchins
Director of Food Services
Mount Blue, RSU 9

Nominators Amanda Barry, Theresa True, Cindy Fortier (School Employees, Community Members, Parents): “When COVID reared its ugly head in March Andy was there pushing, working all hours to make sure that we all had a plan to be able to make sure we would be able to get meals to our community children. We had handfuls of volunteers within a day.”

Deb Baldacci
Lunch Accountability Clerk
Fruit Street School, Bangor School Department

Nominator Leslie Stewart (Support Staff): “Everyone knows Ms. B. I have students that years later, I might see, and they will ask about Ms. B. She has put everyone as a priority so that they consider her to be the safe harbor when times are difficult and they seek out to share good news. She’s our rock.”

Susan Lombardo
Educational Technician
Congin School, Westbrook School Department

Nominators Katlyn Preston and Angela Pecoraro (School Employees): “Sue teaches her children the importance of grit and perseverance and she is determined to help them succeed no matter what. Sue always treats them with respect and kindness, no matter what challenges are being presented on any given day. She does all this with a contagious smile and great sense of humor.”

Rebekah Stephens
Educational Technician
McMahon Elementary School, Lewiston Public Schools

Nominator Rebecca Fournier (Colleague): “Becca demonstrates that Ed Techs are skilled professionals, by lesson planning, implementing curriculum, and being a liaison between the community and school for parents and families.”

Jim DuDevoir
School Custodian
Sherwood Heights Elementary School, Auburn School District

Nominator Breann Crocker (Educator): “Everyone in our building loves Jim because he truly shows he cares about everyone. He is always there when we need him. He never complains and he makes it so that we can focus on teaching the children and not have to worry about the building itself. Our school would not be what it is without him.”

More information on the Maine RISE Award can be found here the national RISE Award can be found here.  Be sure to keep an eye on the Maine DOE Newsroom to read the individual profiles on each finalist. You can also find the Maine Department of Education on Facebook, and Twitter.