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Mario Diaz Albarran, Lincoln’s Custodian, Receives National 2024 ‘Recognizing Inspiring School Employees’ (RISE) Award

April 22, 2024

District 15 is thrilled to share that Lincoln Elementary School’s Head Custodian, Mario Diaz Albarran, was selected as the winner of the national Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award by the U.S. Department of Education. The prestigious award celebrates one classified school employee annually for their extraordinary contributions to education.

Mario Diaz Albarran
At an all-school assembly held on Monday, April 22, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tony Sanders, RISE Program Director Frances Hopkins, and State Representative Nabeela Syed were joined virtually by U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona, who presented the award during the surprise ceremony, and Governor J. B. Pritzker who shared his congratulations with Mario.
“Across the country, our school professionals are education heroes who meet students’ most fundamental needs and enable our young people to learn, achieve, and thrive,” stated Dr. Cardona. “I am thrilled to announce Mr. Mario Diaz Albarran as this year’s RISE awardee. Through Mr. Diaz Albarran’s work, he not only is ensuring that Lincoln Elementary School is a healthy and safe place for learning, he also is building invaluable relationships with students that truly make a difference. It’s an honor for me to recognize Mr. Diaz Albarran with this year’s award.”  

“Mr. Diaz Albarran has created a vivid and empowering environment for students and teachers at Lincoln Elementary School,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “He is changing lives through art and mentorship, and I am thrilled to congratulate him on this incredible honor.”
"We are incredibly proud that Mario Diaz Albarran, Illinois' RISE Award nominee, has been chosen for this prestigious national honor," said Dr. Sanders. "He represents the high caliber of dedication and excellence seen in school professionals throughout Illinois. They're the ones who keep everything running smoothly, from the moment our kids step onto the bus to the last bell of the day. Thank you to Mario and all of our classified employees across the state for your invaluable contributions to ensure our students feel safe, supported, and ready to learn every single day.”
“We could not be more proud of Mario Diaz Albarran on this truly remarkable achievement. Mario’s dedication, hard work, and commitment to the students and staff at Lincoln School exemplify the values we strive for as a school community. On behalf of the Board of Education and I, we extend our sincere gratitude for his commitment to District 15 and the school in which he so deeply -- literally and figuratively -- cares for,” said Superintendent Dr. Laurie Heinz of Community Consolidated School District 15. “Mario’s childhood experiences have helped him connect with students, serve as a role model, and embody our shared belief that all students can achieve anything they set their minds to. We are truly lucky to have such an inspiring individual in our school and district. Congratulations, Mario. We knew you were a rising star and now the whole country does as well.”  
"Celebrating Mr. Mario Diaz Albarran is a profound and exciting moment for District 15 and our greater community. His unwavering dedication has shaped the lives of countless students at Lincoln Elementary. Through his leadership, he fosters a culture where students grasp the significance of investing in and improving our community,” said state Rep. Syed. “His impact extends far beyond our schools; it resonates in the fabric of our community's future. I'm deeply proud that the students in our district are enriched by the mentorship of such an exceptional individual."
As head custodian, Mario Diaz Albarran is known for his dedication, attention to detail, and connections with students and staff at Lincoln Elementary School, where he has worked for five years. His work ethic and leadership of the custodial team ensures students have pristine and high-functioning facilities that inspire pride and allow them to perform at their best. As a former student in District 15, Diaz Albarran also leverages his personal experiences to mentor all students including students in Lincoln’s Social Emotional, Trauma-Informed Practices, Academic Achievement, Relationships, and Character Building (STAR) Program. Students earn the opportunity to serve as one of his “helpers” as a reward for positive behavior. He uses that time to check in on them, connect, and give guidance on whatever they need help with. 
Each year, the U.S. Department of Education collects nominations from all states to be selected and recognized as the national honoree by the U.S. Secretary of Education. The program shines a spotlight on the often-overlooked contributions of classified employees. Classified employees include professionals in occupational specialties, such as paraprofessionals, clerical and administrative services, transportation services, food and nutrition services, custodial and maintenance services, security services, health and student services, technical services, and skilled trades. This year, the Department of Education received 27 nominations from 15 states. Each nomination was peer-reviewed, and five finalists were forwarded to the Secretary for consideration.   

More information is available on the U.S. Department of Education’s RISE webpage.