Minnesota Custodian Wins RISE (Recognizing Inspiring School Employees) Award, To Be Honored at Ceremony in Washington D.C.

Award winner will join school staff from across the nation today at a ceremony held at U.S. Botanic Garden

Washington D.C – Mike Poke, a custodian in the Wayzata Public Schools and member of SEIU Local 284, will be honored in Washington D.C. today as one of the 2017 Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award winners. The award is being given to five individuals from across the country who are doing extraordinary and inspirational things in their schools and communities to promote quality education, foster positive learning environments, and ensure student success.

mike_poke_NCCESEU_20170503Poke is joining four other award recipients, along with distinguished guests, at a ceremony in Washington D.C. at the United States Botanic Garden later this afternoon.

Mike Poke is a custodian in the Wayzata Schools in Minnesota. He is a member and elected officer on the Executive Board of SEIU Local 284, a union of almost 9,000 school staff across Minnesota. Mike began as what he calls a “regular custodian,” working the overnight shift to make sure the school was ready for students in the morning. But that changed about eight years ago when he was moved to the day shift and began having the chance to interact with students in the school.

He got to know the kids, especially those he saw struggling, and became a mentor to many of them. Students and parents called him when things were bad to see if I could help get students back on track.

“I didn’t have someone to keep me motivated when I was a young student, so now I work hard to be that support system for students who need a helping hand,” said Poke. “My mother told me it is important to always give back, and I bring that mindset every day in my job. These kids are our future, so we need to invest in them any way we can. I do the work beyond my job duties because it makes me feel good to see people I help achieve their goals.”

The National Coalition of Classified Education Support Employee Unions (NCCESEU), a coalition of state and national unions that together represent a million school support employees, gives the award. The award highlights the individual contributions of school staff and recognizes the essential role that all education professionals play in shaping our public schools.

There are more than 2.8 million classified education support employees in our nation’s public schools, colleges, and 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 larger school community, and provide instruction and support that leads to academic success.


The National Coalition of Classified Education Support Employee Unions (NCCESEU) is a coalition of state and national unions that together represent a million school support employees, including clerical and administrative staff, custodians, food service workers, health and student services workers, paraeducators, technology services employees, transportation workers, and security and skilled trades staff.

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