Shields Middle School teacher Benigno Lopez was named the 2022 Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year.

Shields Middle School teacher Benigno Lopez was named the 2022 Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year at the ‘Let’s Glow Crazy’-themed awards ceremony held at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in January. Lopez received the award, named for Ida S. Baker, the first African American to serve as deputy superintendent in the Florida Department of Education, from Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) Superintendent Addison Davis.

As his name was announced as the winner, the theme of Rocky played in the background while he made his way to the microphone.

“It’s not just one person who makes a difference, it’s the whole entire village,” said a grateful Lopez.

He shared a story about his mother, who always told him to never be caught without his broom.

“What she meant is to always be working diligently,” he said. “It’s the small acts that you do that make a difference.”

Former student Keila Rose was on hand to share her thoughts about Lopez.

“Mr. Lopez is the kind of teacher they make movies about,” she said.

Born in Philadelphia, Lopez, a graduate of Southeastern University and Nova Southeastern University with a bachelor’s degree in general science and secondary biology and a master’s degree in educational leadership, has worked for HCPS for 18 years. He is currently Shields’ success coach and science teacher. He has a passion for serving the community by advocating for resources for underserved students. He has developed free sports programs, outreach resources and mentoring initiatives through his nonprofit, Life Coach 180.

At the awards ceremony, hosted by Hillsborough Education Foundation, 675 nominees from schools across Hillsborough County—including 13 finalists—were recognized, with one winner revealed for each of three categories: Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year, Instructional Support Employee of the Year and Teacher of the Year.

“We are incredibly proud to recognize our educators and support staff and the impactful work they’ve been able to accomplish, especially this year while facing many pandemic-related challenges, to ensure all students have the support they need to succeed academically and personally,” said Hillsborough County Education Foundation CEO Kim Jowell.

For more information about Hillsborough Education Foundation, visit

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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.