Contributed photos
Perham custodian Pam Ehnert was selected as a RISE Award recipient. She received a trip to Washington, D.C. to receive the award.

Pam Ehnert, a custodian for Perham Public Schools and member of Minnesota School Employees Association, was honored in Washington D.C. as one of the 2023 Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) Award winners. This annual award is given to five individuals across the country who demonstrate extraordinary and inspirational actions in their schools and communities to promote quality education, foster safe and positive learning environments, and ensure student success. 

The Recognizing Achievement in Classified School Employees Act (H.R. 276) was signed into law on April 12, 2019. The act is to acknowledge excellence displayed by classified school employees by establishing the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award Program. It is an important move forward to recognize the essential services provided by classified school employees to students in pre-k through high school.

Ehnert is an active participant at local meetings- speaking, listening, and giving her opinion on issues that affect all members. She uses the knowledge that she gains at workshops to support members in her unit. Ehnert wants a strong unit and is always promoting MSEA to employees, no matter how long they have been with the district. 

Ehnert inspires those she comes in contact daily. As one coworker stated, “I wouldn’t be involved in our union if it wasn’t for Ehnert. She has taught me so much over the years and really encourages younger, new staff to be involved in our union. […] She leads by example every day.”

Ehnert is highly respected by her peers and by her union members. In fact, Ehnert was awarded MSEA’s Sue Ezell Leadership Award in 2022. SELA is the highest honor an MSEA Member can receive, which is presented to one chosen recipient each year. Ehnert’s dedication to Perham’s students, staff, and community is the embodiment of MSEA’s Member of the Year Award.

There are more than 2.8 million classified educational support employees in our nation’s public schools, colleges, universities, and they make up one-third of the public education workforce. They ensure students achieve at their highest levels. They keep students fed, emotionally and physically healthy and safe, engaged and connected to the large school community, and provide instruction and support that leads to academic success. 

The United Classified School Employees (UCSE) is a coalition of classified school employee unions from across the nation that work together to advocate on behalf of our members and the students they serve.