MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Honors 11 Inspirational School Employees Through RISE Award

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) today announced the state finalists for the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award.

In two special outdoor gatherings held today at East End Community School (Portland Public Schools) and Marcia Buker Elementary School (RSU 2), Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin presented Maine’s two State-level Honorees each with certificates and flowers and thanked them for their service. Award nominators and members of their school community were also present to show their gratitude and share inspirational messages about how these individuals have impacted their community.

Created by Congress in 2019 and overseen by the U.S. Department of Education, the RISE Award honors classified employees in the education workforce who provide exemplary service.  The Maine DOE in coordination with the Office of Governor Janet T. Mills has selected 11 finalists from a pool of over eighty exceptional nominees submitted from across Maine by local educational agencies, school administrators, professional associations, nonprofits, parents/caregivers, students, and community members.

“As the daughter of a longtime public school teacher, I know how hard our teachers work every day to provide a quality education. These last few years have brought even greater challenges, and I am grateful to teachers across Maine who have risen to the occasion to educate our children and keep them safe,” said Governor Mills. “On behalf of all Maine people, I sincerely congratulate our RISE award winners on this well-deserved honor, and I thank them for all they do for our state.”

“Today I have been privileged to honor and recognize two of the thousands of heroes who are ensuring that Maine children have access to safe and successful schools,” said Commissioner of Education Pender Makin.  “These dedicated staff members support teachers and families, and ensure that the health, safety, nutritional and academic needs of students are met day after day. Without their dedication and hard work, our schools, our communities, would falter. I urge all Maine people to join me in recognizing these two individuals, and in thanking our entire education workforce, who continues to rise above and deliver on behalf of their students.”

RISE nominees demonstrate excellence in the following areas: (A) Work performance; (B) School and community involvement; (C) Leadership and commitment; (D) Local support (from co-workers, school administrators, community members, etc., who speak to the nominee’s exemplary work); (E) Enhancement of classified school employees’ image in the community and schools.

Of the 11 finalists, two state-level honorees have been selected and submitted to the U.S. Department of Education to represent Maine for consideration in the national RISE Award. The U.S. Department of Education will announce one national honoree and present the individual with an award in the spring. Each of Maine’s finalists will be honored with a letter from the Commissioner of Education and receive spotlights on the Maine Department of Education website.

Maine’s RISE State-Level Honorees:

Deb Bodge
Administrative Assistant/Secretary
Marcia Buker Elementary School, RSU 2

“Mrs. Bodge has been a foundation for Marcia Buker School for many years. Not only has she been resilient during the COVID crisis, but she continues, each day to know about each child and how their worlds work. She also does it all with a smile. She is a rock for our little school and is completely deserving of such an honor,” said one of her nominators, Julie York.

Betsy Paz-Gyimesi
Spanish Family and Community Engagement Specialist
Multilingual and Multicultural Center, Portland Public Schools (PPS)

“Betsy bridges the home/school divide for our families, is a fierce advocate in ensuring that students access programs and services that would nurture and advance their academic performance and social/emotional well-being,” said nominator Maureen Clancy, PPS Language Access Coordinator.

Maine’s RISE Finalists:

Kelly Brown
School Nurse
Kennebunk Elementary School, RSU 21

Vicki Dill
Head Cook, Food Services
Whitefield Elementary School, RSU 12

Jessie Eastman
School Nurse
Lincoln Elementary School, Augusta School District

Leland Gamache
Bus Driver/Custodial Staff
Libson Community School, Lisbon School Department

Ellen Kimball
Food Service Staff
T.W. Kelly Dirigo Middle School, RSU 56

Brittany Layman
Health and Wellness Coordinator/School Nurse
Earl C. McGraw Elementary School, RSU 22

Martha Thompson
Education Technician- Carpentry
Portland Arts and Technology High School
Melinda Williams
Special Education-Education Technician
Sanford School Department

Paula Quirk
Main Office Clerk
Waldo T. Skillin Elementary School, South Portland Public Schools

For a full description and picture of each of the nominees and finalists, visit the Maine Department of Education’s RISE webpages.

For more information about the RISE award including a description of a classified employee, visit the U.S. Department of Education Website. To learn more about Maine’s process including criteria and frequently asked questions, visit the Maine Department of Education Website.