Velda Kissick, a paraprofessional at the Bluegrass Discovery Academy in Rowan County, was honored with the 2021-2022 Kentucky Education Support Staff Professional (KESSP) Award on Feb. 24.
Kissick is one of two 2022 honorees. Paula Rust, director of health services for the Kenton County School District, received her award on Feb. 22.
The award was created in 2020 by Gov. Andy Beshear and. Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman to recognize 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, to preparing their meals, to working with partner agencies to ensure vital needs are met.
Kissick received her award in a surprise visit by Coleman, a former educator, and Commissioner of Education and Chief Learner Jason E. Glass. Rowan County Superintendent John Maxey, Bluegrass Discovery Principal Brandy Carver and Kentucky Board of Education member Allison Slone also attended.
“I want to thank the governor and lieutenant governor for this opportunity to honor the vital contributions classified employees make to every school district in this state. Velda and Paula have directly contributed to the success of our students. Their hard work and dedication is noticed and deeply appreciated,” said Glass.
Coleman said she could not be successful in the classroom without the work of classified employees.
“Often their work goes unnoticed and just as often, they do not get the “thank you” that they deserve,” said Coleman. “I am so pleased to be included in recognizing these employees and putting a spotlight on the work they do. Their work goes above and beyond what is expected and makes such a significant difference in the lives of our students.”
In her 23 years at Bluegrass Discovery Academy (BDA), Kissick has been the one constant at the school since the day she began, said her nominator, Malissa Delgado.
“She is the heart of the BDA. It doesn’t matter how big or small a student’s problem is, Velda will do her best to address the child’s needs,” said Delgado.
Kissick has been “Mama K” for over two decades and has dedicated herself to helping students in any way she can, including making sure every student in her class has good clothes, food to eat and hygiene items. She has even been known to pay the electric and water bills of families to make sure their utilities will not be cut off if she can’t find an organization in her community to assist with payments.
“The students have a strong bond with her. They trust her with their needs, their heartbreaks, their educational struggles and much more. She has built so many relationships with businesses and organizations in our community that benefit our students on a daily basis,” said Delgado. “The community knows her, and they always try to help when she calls upon them because they know every resource they provide us with is going to go directly to our students.”
Rowan County Superintendent John Maxey said Kissick’s dedication has been invaluable.
“Velda has served our district and gone above and beyond each day to meet the needs of her students. She not only assists with academic instruction, but she also works tirelessly to ensure that the social and emotional needs of the students are met,” he said. “She is truly invaluable to BDA and its students. The Rowan County school district is fortunate to have dedicated, caring staff like Mrs. Kissick.”
In winning the award, Kissick and Rust’s names were forwarded to U.S. Department of Education (USED) for consideration for the 2021 national Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) Award.
The RISE award, which recognizes classified school employees who have displayed excellence in serving students, was passed by Congress in 2019 and is overseen by the USED.
Kentucky’s RISE Award committee, composed of key education stakeholders, was assembled by Coleman and Beshear to review and score the nominations.