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Commissioner Stewart Names Five 2018 School-Related Employee of the Year Finalists

April 20, 2018

FDOE Press Office

Commissioner Stewart Names Five 2018 School-Related Employee of the Year Finalists

Tallahassee, Fla., April 20, 2018 – Today, Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart announced the five 2018 School-Related Employee of the Year finalists. This award recognizes outstanding education support personnel for the significant contributions they make to students and families in their schools and districts. Each of the finalists will receive a $6,500 cash prize, and the statewide winner will receive $10,000 at the May 16 State Board of Education meeting in Pinellas County.  

“It is an honor to recognize these outstanding individuals as 2018 School-Related Employee of the Year finalists,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “School-related employees are essential to a school’s day-to-day operations. These men and women have truly gone above and beyond to ensure Florida students have the best education experience possible, and they deserve to be commended for their hard work. I look forward to announcing the winner next month.”

The five finalists for the 2018 School-Related Employee of the Year are listed below.

Bay County – Sylvester Jones, Rutherford High School

Sylvester Jones has been serving the students of Bay District Schools for 13 years. He is currently Rutherford High School’s In-School Suspension Coordinator and Head Coach of the Boys Track and Field Team, for which Jones is praised for his calm demeanor and professionalism. In addition to his assigned duties, he mentors struggling students and contributes to his community by volunteering with the Special Olympics, Boys & Girls Club and the Shaldera Panthers Track Club, an Amateur Athletic Union team. He has earned the Eva P. Jordan Award for unselfish dedication to the community and was recognized as Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.’s 2015 Person of the Year.   

Clay County – Stephanie Melton, W.E. Cherry Elementary School

Stephanie Melton is an Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Behavioral Health Assistant at her alma mater, W.E. Cherry Elementary School. During the eight years she has served in the position, she has demonstrated a commitment to honing her skills to meet students’ individual needs; for instance, she learned sign language to communicate better with non-verbal students. Despite working two jobs and pursuing a postsecondary degree in Education, Melton makes time to support students and their families after school and on the weekends. She also assists local non-profit organizations in raising awareness about special needs. For eight years, she has organized the annual HEAL Zoo Walk for Autism; through her efforts, significant funds were raised and W.E. Cherry Elementary School received five iPads for ESE classrooms.

Miami-Dade County – Jermaine Green, Jose de Diego Middle School

Jermaine Green has been employed with Miami-Dade County Public Schools for 17 years and has served the students at Jose de Diego Middle School as a paraprofessional for the last two. A talented artist and photographer, Green utilizes art to help his special needs students develop fine motor skills, improve their concentration and enhance their own artistic abilities. He sponsors 5000 Role Models, a club designed to improve male students’ behavior and academic performance, and he leads beautification and restoration initiatives within local schools and his community.   

Pinellas County – Debra Canning, Office of Strategic Partnerships

Debra Canning serves as a 21st Century iClass Liaison and has been with Pinellas County Schools for five years. In this role, she has helped more than 500 students at seven sites develop a deeper understanding of and appreciation for literacy, math, science, technology and the arts. Through partnerships with local businesses and community organizations, Canning has arranged for students and their families to access books and educational experiences, such as museums and theaters, at little or no cost. Her supervisor applauded her for creating a culture that emphasizes high academic expectations and embraces each student’s unique attributes.

Sarasota County – Sarah Woods, Gulf Gate Elementary School

Sarah Woods currently serves as the Food and Nutrition kitchen manager for Gulf Gate Elementary School where she manages all aspects of food production and the food service staff. Although Woods’ daily responsibilities are significant, she has a reputation for seeking out students who need positive attention and taking the time to create and maintain relationships with them. She was heralded for her efforts during Hurricane Irma, when Gulf Gate Elementary School became a shelter for more than 2,000 community members. Woods and her team sprang into action and worked tirelessly to ensure all shelter guests received three meals each day. 

More information about the School-Related Employee of the Year Program is available here.

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