Dawson Student Nutrition Services Manager Michael Helton has been named 2021 Instructional Support Employee of the Year.

Hillsborough Education Foundation, in partnership with Hillsborough County Public Schools, announced Michael Helton as the 2021 Instructional Support Employee of the Year at its annual Excellence in Education Awards ceremony.

Helton is Dawson Elementary School’s Student Nutrition Services manager and was shocked when his name was announced as the winner.

“It was not something I was expecting,” he said. “There were so many other great contenders for the award.”

Instead of representing his own personal achievements, he said he felt like he was representing the more than a thousand employees who work in Student Nutrition Services throughout the district.

“It’s been quite a year for us with lots of changes to how we nourish our students,” he said.

Last spring and summer, when schools were closed because of COVID-19, he and his staff transitioned from a traditional in-person breakfast and lunch program to a Grab-and-Go format. During one of his busiest weeks, he and his staff planned to distribute 750 bags of food (that’s 3,750 breakfasts and lunches) but ended up distributing more than 965 bags.

“We were in massive scramble mode,” he said.

He still runs a curbside pickup for the school’s e-learning students, but he is also feeding students learning in person at the school.

“This year has been challenging in so many ways, but also very rewarding,” he said.

Other award winners included: Chardae Duffy at Woodson PK-8 (Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year) and Laura Meehan at Caminiti Exceptional Center (Teacher of the Year).

Hillsborough County Public Schools is America’s seventh-largest school district and the largest in Central Florida, with more than 240 public schools and more than 220,000 students.

Every day, more than 24,000 teachers and staff in Hillsborough County Public Schools make a difference in students’ lives.

“This past year has been unlike any other, and our teachers and school staff have triumphantly risen to the many challenges they have faced navigating the pandemic and e-learning. As we reflect on the impact so many have made during this crisis, it makes the 2021 awards ceremony extra special,” said Hillsborough Education Foundation CEO Kim Jowell.

To learn more about the awards night, visit www.EducationFoundation.com.

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Michelle Caceres
MIchelle Caceres has been writing for the Osprey Observer for seventeen years. She enjoys writing human interest pieces about inspiring members of the community who are working to better our community. She lives in FishHawk Ranch with her husband and recently became an empty-nester. When not writing, Michelle is serving her church community, reading and enjoying Florida's weather.