Mark has worked as a custodian for 22 years and has a proven track record of going above and beyond to make the school a safe, welcoming and enriching place for all the students. He has painted a world map on the playground, painted numbers and fractions on steps to help younger students learn math and even painted inspirational words on the gym walls in his effort to turn “dead space” into “learning spaces.” Mark even volunteered to shave his head for a student body fundraiser for Pennies for Patients.
Mark’s work saw him appointed to his city’s newly formed Environmental & Sustainability Task Force in 2015. Mark was elected chairman by the task force members in the first year, and over the next 3 years the taskforce has been responsible for a 52% decrease in energy consumption in the city’s 5 municipal buildings.
In 2016, Mark got tired of seeing all the milk being thrown away that students didn’t drink at breakfast and lunch, so he came up with the One More Sip challenge. It took six weeks to establish a baseline of milk being poured down the drain, and then he started asking students to take one more sip before they went out to recess. From October to May the school increased milk consumption from 60% to over 90%. Mark had the student council help him and he dubbed them his Moo Crew. They made posters to hang not only in the cafeteria but all over school. Now students celebrate two-sip Tuesday and Finish Your Milk Friday. They also came up with weekly toasts that always ended with “and here’s to the cows!”
Mark is also the inventor of a device he patented that can be used to protect children in lockdown situations.
Mark likes to say he never has worked a day in his life because if you love what you do it never feels like work. His passion is obvious, and everyone in the schools knows and appreciates “Mr. Glende.” He is a committed member to his union, and his multiple awards, including Employee of the Year and Volunteer of the Year, highlight just how valuable and respected he is to the students, staff and parents in the district.
Maria Tapia is a school librarian at Ocean View Junior High School in Oxnard, California. Maria stands out in a crowd of school employees for many reasons, but mostly it’s about her keen ability to connect with people—of all ages. As a librarian, Maria excels at helping students with the research they need to do and excels at helping them solve problems. But where she truly shines in everyone’s eyes is with her willingness to use the library as a place where students go to solve all of their concerns. The Ocean View library is a safe haven for students of all ages no matter what is going on in their lives. They can go there to spend their lunch time if it’s cold outside and they need a warm place to be, if they need someone to talk to or if they want to relax have fun or do school work. No matter why a student visits the school library, Maria connects with them. She partners kids together so they have a friend and someone who will sit with them at lunch. And the students all know that the doors are always open for them. Tapia is president of CSEA chapter 599
“Her passion is not just obvious, it’s contagious”. As a member of the Ventura County Community Development Corporation she works with low income families in the community to help make home ownership a reality.
Hank Wessel has served the community of Alexandria as a bus driver for 17 years. For the entirety of his career with Alexandria Public Schools, he has been active and passionate about Minnesota School Employees Association and the labor movement. He has served as Chief Steward, Vice Steward, Treasurer, Delegate, on the Organizing Committee and is the current chair of the Judicial Panel. Hank feels proud to be receiving the RISE Award. “I have received awards from other unions, but this is by far the most rewarding. You try to do the best you can at your job and for your union people, and are never sure you have done enough. So, when you are considered for an award like this it is extremely humbling and rewarding.”
Hank provides acceptance and understanding to children everyday while maintaining their safety and educational transport. For 17 years, he has been a pillar within the school district and with the community. Hank tries to practice patience and empathy in his everyday life with students. “When I am picking up kids in the morning and they are late for the bus, I try not to get on their case. You do not know what kind of a morning they have already had. Were they yelled at by their parents? Did they even have breakfast? So, I go easy unless I know better. The senior high kids will tell you their troubles if you take the time to listen, and for some kids that’s all they need”.
Hank goes above and beyond his call of duty as a bus driver, coworker, union advocate and leader. “You see the same children day in and day out, so you get to see the good and the bad in them. As time goes on, you see a lot more good growing in these kids than bad. Most of them are very interested in what is going on in school. That tells me the school system is doing a good job. The schools work because we do. That inspires me!”
Sherry Shaw is a special education paraeducator at Tanaina Elementary School in Wasilla, Alaska, and the 2018 National Education Association (NEA) Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year. For 13 years, Sherry has worked closely with teachers to prepare classroom materials, modify curriculum, work one-on-one and in small groups with special education students, as well as aid in the students’ socialization and behavior management.
Outside of the classroom, she is a coach, a Special Olympics volunteer, and an advocate for addressing the needs of those struggling with homelessness, drug abuse, and addiction. Sherry is an active member of NEA-Alaska and the Matanuska-Susitna Classified Employees’ Association (MSCEA) and serves as a building representative at her school.
Kim Karnofski has served the students and families of Castle Rock, WA since 1988. The many hats she has worn during that time include paraeducator, custodian, and tennis, cross-country, and girls’ varsity basketball coach. But no matter the role, Kim encourages her students to take positive action today that sets them on the path for success tomorrow.
“Kim is the epitome of what RISE stands for,” says Charlotte Shindler, President of Public School Employees of Washington SEIU Local 1948. “She meets her students where they are, and gets them where they need to be. She challenges students to take a spirit of giving into their community, and encourages them to find their own definition of success.” While working alongside credit recovery students who are struggling to graduate, Kim reminds them to only focus on what they need to do next.
“Sometimes success is as simple as hitting the ball over the net in tennis,” Kim tells her students. “It’s not all about wins and losses. You need to look at the bigger picture.”In addition to working with students to earn scholarships and reach a brighter future after graduation, Kim leads numerous service projects in Castle Rock, serves on the city’s safe streets committee, and has created a Life Fitness P.E. program in her district to teach healthy habits.