The Outstanding School Volunteer Award

The Outstanding School Volunteer Award is presented annually to school volunteers who have shown outstanding dedication and commitment to quality education in Florida. The Outstanding School Volunteer award recognizes a youth/student, adult and a senior volunteer in each of Florida’s five reporting regions.

2018-2019 Outstanding School Volunteer Award Winners

Region I


Rafael Ivan Garcia
Santa Rosa County
Oriole Beach Elementary School

“Rafael seeks out the struggling child, the one who is working on social skills, and assists him or her through play. This kind of thoughtfulness and empathy is wonderful to see at this young age – Rafael is an old soul with a heart of gold. In fact, he seems to personify the ‘Golden Rule’ – always treating others as he would wish to be treated.”


Marie-Claire Leman
Leon County
Frank Hartsfield Elementary School

“If you were to describe the very epitome of an outstanding volunteer, you would be talking about Marie-Claire Leman.”


Tania Owens
Okaloosa County
Wright Elementary School

“Our students have adapted their usual means of communication to include direct eye contact and speech articulation as well as patience when talking to Ms. Tania, who chooses to read lips to broaden with whom she can communicate. The emotional support students feel because of Ms. Tania's involvement shows in students’ attitudes and school performance.”

Region II


Mason Saye
St. Johns County
Creekside High School

“Mason is hard working, passionate, and driven. His love for our Best Buddies program and for promoting inclusion for people with disabilities is both inspiring and remarkable. We are forever grateful for Mason’s time, skills, and most of all, his heart.”


Khanh-Lien Banko
Alachua County
Finley Elementary School, Gainesville High School
Westwood Middle School

“The Florida Parent Teacher Association’s tagline is: “All children are our children.” Mrs. Banko lives this motto every day.”


Sal Iaropoli
St. Johns County
Sebastian Middle School, Pacetti Bay Middle School
Liberty Pines Academy

“With enthusiastic encouragement and proper instruction, Sal helps students achieve success with their instruments, which propels them to keep practicing and mastering increasingly difficult pieces. The students are great learners, with many overcoming financial and other family obstacles. Many of the students in the introductory music classes have never picked up an instrument before. With Sal’s support and instruction, students become both comfortable and competent in their abilities.”

Region III


Justin Funes
Osceola County
Osceola High School

“The students like to work with Justin because he embodies the meaning of the word 'teamwork.' Thanks to Justin and his dedication, we are seeing a greater overall success… If this young man continues on the path he's on at his young age, what a wonderful and fulfilling future awaits him.”


Kellie Cofer
Volusia County
Seabreeze High School

“From all that Ms. Kellie Cofer has done, the Seabreeze Instrumental Music Program has gained a wonderful reputation and stance within the community.”


Mike Heron
Martin County
Jensen Beach Elementary School

“Mr. Heron is a huge asset to our classroom. He makes sure he works with every single child in the classroom throughout the week. He is great at working with struggling students as well as enriching above-level students. Mr. Heron is patient and kind; he is compassionate and understanding. He is always willing to listen to students and help in any way he can.”

Region IV


Madison Morrow
Pasco County
Mittye P. Locke Elementary School
Gulf Middle and Gulf High School

“Madison created the Anti-Bully Club for our school. She researched, created agendas, and worked with students to come up with activities to show the students how to be kind and understanding of others, how to identify what bullying looks like, and how to stand up for each other. She is a thoughtful young lady who even spends her free time volunteering in the community by taking part in events that affect our students.”


Tracy Ellis
Pinellas County
Ridgecrest Elementary School

“Tracy Ellis rises to the top as an outstanding volunteer whose dedication as a volunteer, parent leader, and champion for the children has had an immeasurable positive impact on our students, parents and teachers. Ms. Ellis has been a ‘game changer’ for the Ridgecrest Learning Community.”


Rebecca Heifner
Manatee County
Gullett Elementary School

“We see the students make gains which help in the classroom allowing the children to close the gap and to be prepared for the next grade. The students look forward to going to Mrs. Heifner’s groups. She has a servant’s attitude toward the teachers and students and only wants to make a difference. Mrs. Heifner has accomplished that goal many times over.”

Region V


Jefflyne Desilme
Monroe County
Key West High School

“Jefflyne has served as an advocate and translator on her own time, which is especially helpful when we have new students come to the school. As a poised and articulate young lady with a warm smile, Jefflyne helps to put new students at ease. She is always the first to step up to support her peers and is a wonderful example of a volunteer who gives of her time for the joy of helping others and seeing them succeed.”


Linda Wallace
Collier County
Golden Terrace Elementary School
Golden Gate Middle School

“Becoming an active member of her community and our schools has allowed Mrs. Linda Wallace to give of herself to others in need. Through the love and gratitude she receives in return, they make her life complete.”


Ora Lee Greene
Broward County
Wingate Oaks Center

“Ms. Ora Lee Greene volunteers every day with students who have multiple disabilities. Child by child, ‘Grandma Ora Lee’ changes their lives by providing guidance, coaching, and a heavy dose of love as they learn and grow. At 94 years old, she is learning sign language along with one of her hearing-impaired students, proving daily that it is never too late to learn new skills. Ms. Greene believes that supporting a child’s ability… does not just make a difference in the life of a child, it changes their whole world."