RICHMOND — Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane are calling on parents, students and other school community members to submit nominations for the U.S. Department of Education’s Recognizing Inspirational School Employees Award, also known as the RISE Award.

The RISE Award honors classified school employees who provide exemplary service to students in grades pre-K-12. The federal education department defines classified school employees as employees who work in the following areas: paraprofessional, clerical and administrative services, pupil transportation, school nutrition, custodial and maintenance services, security, health and student services, technical services, and skilled trades.

“While we all recognize how important teachers are in preparing students for success, the critical role support staff plays in creating and maintaining a healthy, safe and welcoming school culture is sometimes overlooked,” Qarni said. “The RISE Award is intended to honor classified school employees for exemplary service in their official duties and for going the extra mile in encouraging students to do their best every day.”

Qarni, in collaboration with Lane and the Virginia Department of Education, will select two nominees to represent the commonwealth in the national competition. The U.S. Department of Education will announce the national RISE Award winners next spring.

“As a former teacher, principal and division superintendent, I know how it is often a cheerful greeting from a bus driver, custodian or school secretary that sets a positive tone for a student’s entire day,” Lane said. “In reviewing the nominations and making our selections, Secretary Qarni and I will review each nominee’s work performance; school and community involvement; leadership; commitment to student success; community support; and contribution to enhancing the image of classified school employees.”

The deadline for nominations is Thursday, October 22. Nominations must be submitted through the Office of the Secretary of Education’s website. Submissions must include a written summary of the nominee’s service and a link to a one-minute video on a publicly available website highlighting their contribution to the school community. Videos may include comments from peers, supervisors, students, parents and teachers.