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DHS Secretary RISE Award State Honoree

Deering High School Administrative Secretary Liana Littig has been named a state winner of the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award for the extraordinary contributions she has made to students, her school, and community. Maine Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Dan Chuhta this week joined Deering High School and Portland Public Schools leaders and staff in honoring Littig.

The event took place on May 29 at Deering. Littig, who has been with Deering for more than 20 years, is one of two Maine members of the education workforce recognized as a 2024 RISE Award State Honoree this week. School Union 76 Food Service Coordinator Sheila Nevells also was honored at the Deer Isle Stonington Elementary School for receiving a RISE award.

The RISE Award was passed by Congress in 2019 and is overseen by the U.S. Department of Education. It honors classified employees in the education workforce who provide exemplary service. Littig and Nevells were selected as the two state-level honorees out of 10 finalists. Nearly 70 nominations were submitted to the Maine Department of Education (DOE) by colleagues and community members. As 2024 RISE Award State Honorees, Littig and Nevells will now represent Maine for consideration for the national RISE Award.

RISE nominees demonstrate excellence in work performance, school and community involvement, leadership and commitment, local support (from co-workers, school administrators, community members, etc., who speak to the nominee’s exemplary work), and enhancement of classified school employees' image in the community and schools.

“Liana’s day-to-day dedication to the students, families, and staff at Deering High School has been described by her colleagues as ‘unmatched,’ said Deputy Commissioner Chuhta while presenting the honor to Littig. “You are an essential part of the school, a valued community member, and a true example of a public servant.”

“Everyone who knows Liana says she is remarkable,” said Deering High School Assistant Principal Halima Noor. “She has especially impacted our Portuguese students and embraced them warmly, connecting them with the resources they need. She is so helpful and never makes anyone feel less than for needing help. We all adore her.”

Littig, who is proficient in Portuguese and Spanish, said, “I feel so loved and appreciated. This is such a good place. They are so good to me.”

Here are some highlights from Littig’s nomination for the award:

“She is the first person students and staff see when they walk in the door. For many of our newcomer students who speak Portuguese, it is the first time someone in the school system stops and has a deep, kind and welcoming conversation with them in Portuguese. All students know if they have a question to find Ms. Littig in the main office because she always has the answer or knows who does! No student is turned away without receiving a thoughtful response when she is in the office.

Liana is not a gatekeeper of knowledge but rather imparts knowledge and the know-hows of all she does to better equip staff, students and parents with what they need to have a successful day at school. Liana has also become well known in the community, especially with immigrant families.”

Learn more about Maine’s Two 2024 RISE State Honorees.

See WGME Channel 13 story about the two honorees: Two Maine school workers honored for exemplary service.

In 2022, Betsy Paz-Gyimesi, a Spanish-speaking family and community engagement specialist in the district’s Multilingual & Multicultural Center, was a RISE State Honoree and Martha Thompson, an educational technician at the Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS), was among 11 Maine finalists for the RISE Award.

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with more than 6,600 students, and it’s also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of 53 languages. Approximately 48 percent of the district’s students are white and 52 percent are students of color. Nearly half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.