Governor Scott Presents Shine Awards to 15 Educators During Cabinet Meeting

September 24, 2013 – Today, during a meeting of the Florida Cabinet, Governor Rick Scott recognized 15 educators with the Governor’s Shine Award for their contributions to learning. The Shine Award is presented to Floridians who have positively impacted children through education.

Governor Scott said, “The foundation for any great state and thriving workforce begins in the classroom with educators and students. These educators help their students realize their dreams and develop pathways to success, which benefits families throughout the Sunshine State.”

The teachers recognized today have become instrumental in administering parent-teacher partnerships at their schools.

Congratulations to each of the following teachers for making a difference in the lives of Florida students.

  • Maritza Maldonado, Hillsborough County, Gateway Christian Academy –Maritza is the Vice-Principal at Gateway Christian where she also teaches fourth grade. A 20-year teaching veteran, Maritza believes when schools, families and community groups work together to support learning, children do better academically, stay in school longer and enjoy the experience.
  • Suzette Dean, Hillsborough County, Bible Truth Ministries Academy – Suzette founded the Bible Truth Academy nearly 13 years ago and has been instrumental in the expansion and development of the school. Suzette stands by the concept that parents are the primary educators in their child’s academic career.
  • Francine Brown, Hillsborough County, Mount Calvary Junior Academy – Francine is an 11-year educator and is currently teaching kindergarten. She has a teaching background in Biology and is also the school’s robotics coach. Francine has been an integral component in the school’s parental engagement plan and credits innovation for her success.
  • Florencia Fouch, Hillsborough County, St. Peter Claver Catholic School – Florencia is the Chair of the parental involvement partnership committee at one of St. Petersburg’s oldest Catholic schools.
  • Joseph Havelka, Hillsborough County, St. Peter Claver Catholic School – Joseph is the middle grade social studies teacher at St. Peter Claver. He works alongside Florencia Fouch on the school’s implementation committee for the Step Up Student Partnership.
  • Bethany Gerber, Manatee County, Bradenton Christian School – Bethany has been at Bradenton Christian School for five years and currently serves as Director of Enrichment, Chair of the Academic Excellence Committee and Key Club Faculty Advisor. In her role, Bethany fosters parent engagement through dynamic plans with parents and teachers to guide and support student learning.
  • Mara Curran, Manatee County, Saint Joseph Catholic School – Mara has been an educator for more than 20 years in Bradenton and has taught elementary and middle school for the past 18 years at St. Joseph Catholic School. She serves as coordinator for the parent-school engagement program, continuously building strong relationships with parents.
  • Mahmoud Gomaa, Hillsborough County, American Youth Academy – Mahmoud is the Vice-Principal at the American Youth Academy. Through his monthly parent education programs, daily work with the students and an active partnership with the Step Up for Students program, Mahmoud has built a strong connection between all stakeholders and the school.
  • Jannette Rivera, Hillsborough County, Harvest Time Christian School – Jannette has been teaching for the last nine years and currently teaches second grade. Rivera helped her school create a program that actively engages parents in a successful partnership for better learning.
  • Beth Schlabach, Sarasota County, Tabernacle Christian School – Beth began teaching at Tabernacle Christian in 2000 after returning from teaching at a bilingual, Christian school in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Her involvement in the school’s performing arts program allows for her to expand parent-teacher relationships while enriching the lives of her students.
  • Sonja Felton, Pinellas County, Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg –Sonja is the Director of Graduate Support at Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg and is responsible for preparing and transitioning upper level students into various high school programs both locally and nationally. Sonja joined Academy Prep with a background in development and admissions from Eckerd College and understands the importance of partnerships between families and schools.
  • Elizabeth Brown, Pinellas County, Mount Zion Christian Academy – Elizabeth is a kindergarten teacher and coordinator of the parent-school partnership program. Her ability to relate to parents and students allows the school to foster rich learning experiences that prepare their students for a competitive and global society.
  • Zonniwiece Simard, Manatee County, Edison Academics – Zonnie has been a teacher for more than 25 years. Zonnie’s background is in working with students with special needs and her passion is helping students discover the wonders and possibilities of science. Since becoming an administrator last year, she has reinforced the importance of parent involvement and works to build a strong Edison Parent Involvement program.
  • Michael Zelenka, Hillsborough County, Incarnation Catholic School –Michael joined Incarnation Catholic School in 2010 with a mission to enhance parental involvement. He recently developed several initiatives that are targeted to increase parental engagement and enhance the learning experiences of students and parents.
  • Dana Sostchin, Miami-Dade County, Yeshiva Elementary School – Dana has been teaching for more than 27 years, 24 of which have been in Yeshiva Elementary School’s first grade. Dana is able to differentiate instruction to meet the individual needs of each child, providing a strong foundation in academic, social-emotional and character development.



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