Educator Recognitions

Kentucky Education Support Staff Professional Awards and National RISE Awards

Published: 3/25/2024 3:07 PM

The Kentucky Education Support Staff Professional Award, created by Gov. Andy Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman in 2020, recognizes the state's more than 46,000 classified school employees. Classified school employees serve in vital and often overlooked roles, from driving students to school and preparing their meals, to working with partner agencies to meet crucial student needs.

Nominations for the 2024-2025 awards cycle are expected to open late summer/early fall 2024.

​Nominations may be submitted by public school districts, private schools, educational cooperatives, education organizations, professional organizations, labor organizations, nonprofit entities, parents and students.

Two state winners are announced annually. Their names are then forwarded to the U.S. Department of Education for consideration for the national Recognizing Inspirational Schools Employees (RISE) Award, which was passed by Congress in 2019 to recognize classified school employees who have displayed excellence in serving students.

Kentucky Education Support State Professional Award recipients include:​

  • ​2023-2024: Brandon Burden, custodian, Robertson County Schools, and Judy Edens, lead custodian, Fayette County Schools​

  • 2022-2023: Heather LeBlanc, early childhood coordinator, Gallatin County Schools, and Michael Wright, instructional assistant, Calloway County Day Treatment Center​.
  • 2021-2022: Velda Kissick, paraprofessional, Bluegrass Discovery Academy, Rowan County, and Paula Rust, director of health services, Kenton County.

  • 2020-2021: Shelly Thomas, family resource coordinator, Barren County, and Robert Walker, school safety and wellness coordinator, Harrison County​.​

2022 Michael Wright KEESP AwardMichael Wright, an instructional assistant at the Calloway County Day Treatment Center, was honored with the 2022-2023 Kentucky Education Support Staff Professional Award in a surprise visit from Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman.​

 Picture of the 2021 - 2022 Kentucky    Education Support Staff Professional    Award winner - Paula Rust​​ Picture of the 2021 - 2022 Kentucky 

 Education Support Staff Professional    Award winner - Paula Rust​​


GlyptusAnn ​Jones
Office of the Commissioner
Division of Communications 
300 Sower Boulevard
(502) 564-2000 ext. 4616

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