Atlanta, GA – Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced that two Georgians have been named winners of the Georgia RISE Award, which honors classified school employees.

“Nadia Jones and Anna Singleton represent the best of our public schools,” Governor Kemp said. “They are among the heroes who worked hard to keep our students safe, healthy, and learning throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and I am honored to recognize these two outstanding Georgians with the RISE Award.”

Ms. Nadia Jones, the School Nurse at Oak Grove Elementary School STEAM Academy in the Cherokee County School District, and Mrs. Anna Singleton, the Student Information Systems Coordinator at Fayette LIFE Academy in Fayette County Public Schools, are the 2020-21 winners of the Georgia award. They have also been submitted as Georgia’s nominees for the national RISE Award.

In spring 2021, the U.S. Department of Education began awarding the Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) Award each year, to one full- or part-time classified school employee who provides exemplary service to students in pre-kindergarten through high school.

The governor of each state is invited to nominate up to two classified school employees for each year’s award. Georgia runs a state-level process, the Georgia RISE Award, to select its nominees.

“Over the last year and a half, I have witnessed heroic efforts from classified employees committed to providing a safe and productive place for every student to learn,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “From Ms. Jones’ work to keep students healthy and provide resources and support to families as a school nurse, to Mrs. Singleton’s efforts as her school district pivoted to virtual learning, these two employees are an inspiration. I am thrilled to see them recognized with this prestigious award.”

All schools and districts were invited to submit a nominee for the Georgia RISE Award. Nomination forms were reviewed by a panel of judges composed of representatives from the Georgia Department of Education and numerous advocacy groups. The highest-scoring applications were presented to Governor Kemp, who made the final selection of two nominees.

Employees in the following job categories are eligible for consideration for the Georgia RISE Award. These categories are set in statute for the national award: paraprofessional, clerical and administrative services, transportation services, food and nutrition services, custodial and maintenance services, health and student services, technical services, and skilled trades.

Nadia Jones is a School Nurse at Oak Grove Elementary School STEAM Academy in the Cherokee County School District. Nurse Nadia, as she is affectionately called, manages chronic illnesses, administers medications, performs first aid, fosters a healthy school environment, cares for students’ mental health needs, teaches lessons in the classroom, provides training on emergency preparedness, screens students for hearing and vision deficiencies, and answers questions throughout the day and night. Students, their parents, and the staff trust her skills, sound judgment, and loving care.

Even in an intense situation, Nadia remains calm, collected, and in control. During an emergency health situation at the school, she directed staff members, cared for the student in distress, and compassionately checked on each person who was involved or witnessed the situation.

“Nadia goes above her job requirements joyfully, and I often think of how she has made those requirements feel, sound, and look to the children,” parent Chelsey Queen wrote in a recommendation letter. “To them, it feels like a moment of love while giving an ice pack to a bumped noggin or a bandage to a scraped elbow. It sounds like getting to visit with a calming presence who helps dry their tears with a tissue and an encouraging conversation. It looks like a shoulder to lean on through emotional moments where they need to be seen, heard, and understood.”

“Nurse Nadia consistently shows grace, empathy, and true care for all students and faculty members,” Assistant Principal Ashley Polito added. “It is an honor and a privilege to work with such an outstanding nurse.”

Anna Singleton is the Student Information Systems Coordinator for Fayette LIFE Academy in Fayette County Public Schools.

In the fall of 2020, LIFE Academy was slated to open the Fayette Virtual Academy with about 125 students. Because of the pandemic, LIFE ultimately built a virtual school for almost 1,900 students, trained 210 teachers on a learning management system they had never seen, and provided ongoing support throughout the school year.

According to LIFE Academy leaders, all of that would not have been possible without the “sheer tenacity” of Anna Singleton, who worked tirelessly to make sure every virtual student was taken care of as if they were her own. Anna quickly mastered the necessary software, created unique methods to solve student and teacher problems quickly and efficiently, and acted as a liaison between the emergency virtual program and the overall community. She went on to develop a digital system through which teachers, students, and parents could get assistance through a customer help desk with an average response time of seven minutes.

Outside her primary role at Fayette LIFE Academy, Anna has also organized a clothing drive for students hit hard by the pandemic, launched a fundraising campaign that provided uniforms for all students, and orchestrated a partnership with the city mayor that resulted in a campus beautification project.

“Anna Singleton is one of the most committed and effective educational support specialists I have ever had the honor of working with,” Fayette LIFE Academy Dean of Students Dr. Margo Wimbish wrote in a recommendation letter.

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