MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin Recognizes Southern Aroostook Community School Employee as State’s RISE Award Honoree

Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin joined Southern Aroostook Community School leaders and staff to honor Administrative Assistant Elaine Small with the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award for the extraordinary contributions she has made to students, educators, and the community. Whether it’s spearheading fundraisers to support students’ post-secondary aspirations, participating in community events, providing support to a variety of staff, or working alongside colleagues to coordinate bus routes, Small makes a huge impact each day on the students and staff around her.

Created by Congress in 2019 and overseen by the U.S. Department of Education, the prestigious RISE Award honors non-teaching school employees who provide exemplary service. Small is one of 10 state-level finalists chosen by the Maine Department of Education (DOE) and Governor’s Office out of nearly 90 exceptional nominations submitted to the DOE by school colleagues and community members. She has been selected to represent Maine for consideration as the national RISE Award recipient. The U.S. Department of Education will announce one national honoree this spring.

“The RISE Awards are a moment when we can hold up the unsung heroes who are doing the most intense, personal work of our schools and who are very rarely recognized,” said Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin while presenting the award. “We are here to celebrate and honor Elaine for her years and years of service to this school community. As I read Elaine’s accolades in her nomination, you could hear the people who she has helped, who she has inspired, and who she has supported with love, care, and dedication. I am in awe of what Elaine has achieved for this school community.”

“Elaine values kids and everything she does is about kids. The number of lives she has touched through her work is inspiring,” said RSU 50 Superintendent Jon Porter while honoring Small. “Elaine really is the glue that keeps everything together, the frontline for what happens here, and the first face people see. She has also been the president of our scholarship program for the last 35 years and has organized support and community events to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for graduates going on to higher education. Thank you for everything you do.”

“I am deeply honored and completely surprised to be nominated for a RISE Award by my school colleagues. My position here in RSU 50 evolves every single day and that is one of the things I love about it – I am about growth and change in my life and the lives of our students,” said RISE State Honoree Elaine Small. “My hope is to continue the work we do here in our school and our community and to always keep a positive place in our minds and in our hearts, for every student to be successful, while they are with us and as they go forward in their lives.”

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.

You can read more about Small and all of Maine’s state finalists here and below. Photos available on request.

Maine’s RISE State Honoree
Elaine Small
Administrative Assistant
RSU 50Elaine Small has been serving generations of young people in rural Maine, where she maintains the perfect balance of professionalism and love in her work. She can often be found pitching in to lend a helping hand in all areas within the district and school, all while managing the school administrative unit’s (SAU’s) bussing staff, which is a huge feat. Elaine ensures kids can get to school and have access to extracurricular programming, and often times she juggles all of this without a full fleet.

Elaine leads by example, forging a strong relationship between the school and the community and she is a constant presence at community events. She can be found in the auditorium during drama productions, in the stands showing her support to student-athletes, serving as a senior class advisor, and volunteering hundreds of hours to ensure students have access to post-secondary career opportunities. Through her modeling, students are encouraged to get involved in senior citizen luncheons, spaghetti suppers, and local craft fairs. She organizes fundraisers and works tirelessly to get the community involved in the continuing education of Maine students. The success of the So. Aroostook Scholarship Fund and ultimately the workforce in Aroostook County is largely due to her continued efforts for many years.

Maine’s RISE Finalists

Larry Alley
Head Bus Driver/Custodial Staff
Pemetic Elementary School, Southwest Harbor School Department

Kevin Bailey
Mid-Coast School of Technology, Region 8

Nichole Bryant
Pre-K Educational Technician
Elm Street School, RSU 16

James Fahey
Outside Security Officer
Bangor High School, Bangor School Department

Ann Heald
Title 1 Education Technician
Madison Elementary School, MSAD 59

Anne Lee
Assistant Cook/Custodial Staff
Tremont Consolidated School, Mount Desert Island Regional School System – at the time of nomination

James Mendoza
Migrant Education Regional Coordinator (Eastern Washington County), Mano En Mano – at the time of nomination

Linda Oster
Transportation/Bus Driver

Shawn Russell
IT/Communications Director
Rangeley, RSU 78