By Tamas Mondovics

The Hillsborough Education Foundation hosted this year’s Excellence in Education Awards ceremony, presented by the Suncoast Credit Union, last month at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. 

The total nominees numbered 650, including Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year (IDA) – 211, Instructional Support Employee of the Year (ISEOY) – 203 and Teacher of the Year (TOY) – 236. The finalists included four for IDA, four for ISEOY and five for TOY.

The ceremony awarded Bonnie Bresnyan a special needs teacher at Lewis Elementary School in Temple Terrace as the Teacher of the Year.

The other Teacher of the Year finalists were: Nicole Meyerson of Carrollwood Elementary, Alexa Trafficante of Gorrie Elementary, Lisabeth Leist of Steinbrenner High School, and Jennifer Jackson of Stewart Middle Magnet.

Miriam Velez-Hernandez, a bilingual aide at Dover Elementary, was recognized as Instructional Support Employee of the Year.

Social worker Christine Campbell of Van Buren Middle School received the Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year award.

The other Ida S. Baker finalists were: Teacher Jonathan Collier of Spoto High School, credited for building self-esteem in students and almost never missing a day of work.
Teacher Alicia Fojaco of Sessums Elementary and magnet lead teacher Meredith Mullen of Lockhart Elementary joined the list.

“I’d like to thank my Dover family for the opportunity to participate in the academic growth and challenge as well as the success of our students,” Velez-Hernandez said. “To my bilingual team, for their support and love always, and to all the other nominees, who also are deserving of this award. I share it with you.”

Other finalists included Cindy Nunez, a kindergarten aide at Claywell Elementary, Talina Ugarte, a bilingual aide at Muller Elementary Magnet, and Head custodian Leonard Snead of Lockhart Elementary Magne.

Awards followed a reception prepared by talented culinary students from Jefferson¸ Leto, Sickles, Steinbrenner and Strawberry Crest high schools.

For a complete list, more and information about the 2018 Excellence in Education Awards, presented by the Suncoast Credit Union, visit

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