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Stuarts Draft school aide nominated for national RISE award

A local elementary school aide has been chosen as one of Virginia's two nominees for a national award. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

The U.S. Department of Education's Recognizing Inspirational School Employees, or "RISE" Award, receives up to two nominations per state each year. One of the Virginia nominees for 2022 is Jill Williams, an intervention aide at Stuarts Draft Elementary School. Here's her principal, Tina Bowersox, speaking in a nomination video.

TINA BOWERSOX: She has an absolutely incredible work ethic, getting here one of the earliest people every day. She's part of our early drop off team, and she makes every student feel comfortable.

Williams told WMRA that she first got into education when her children were in preschool, and she's now worked at the elementary school for 13 years.

JILL WILLIAMS: A typical day is meeting with multiple groups of children from first grade all the way up to fifth grade … trying to instill the love for reading and having fun learning how to read and putting it all together to make sense for these littles.

When she found out she had been nominated –

WILLIAMS: Ah, gosh, I was humbled! Honored … after I read it, I was speechless.

She said her work doesn't even feel like a job.

WILLIAMS: I love being a part, just that little tiny piece of their life puzzle. And I just, I love every day being with them.

The RISE Award, which was created by Congress in 2019, honors classified school employees, such as school nutrition staff and instructional aides who provide exemplary service to students.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.