Every year, the Hillsborough Education Foundation, in partnership with Hillsborough County Public Schools, presents the Excellence in Education Awards. This premiere event celebrates educators and school personnel who consistently bring forth their best efforts and utilize their talents to ensure the students they serve receive the best education possible.




2018 Excellence in Education Awards finalists:


Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year

Presented by 


Christine T. Campbell, Van Buren Middle 
Christine T. Campbell has a strong Christian faith and is a devoted wife and mother. Mrs. Campbell received her Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from the University of South Florida. She is a veteran and has served in the United States Army. Mrs. Campbell has been a School Social Worker in HCPS for the last 7 years. Her caring for her children and “doing what is in the best interest of each child” motivates her daily to excel in meeting the needs of her students and community. Mrs. Campell started an on-site Community Clothing Closet and has established community partners to provide students with school supplies and holiday food assistance. She also encourages student attendance through motivational groups. Mrs. Campbell’s commitment to student support is seen in her involvement in her district and department – she is co-creator and facilitator of the pilot program called Social Work Attendance Team (S.W.A.T.), a Professional Learning Community geared toward increasing districtwide graduation rate.



Jonathan Collier, Spoto High 
Jonathan Collier graduated from Riverview High School and earned a BA in International Studies at USF. He taught in a middle school in South Korea for three years. Jonathan returned to Hillsborough County as a substitute teacher, paraprofessional, and has been an exceptional student educator at Spoto High School since 2014. Jonathan is the founder of Spoto’s Special Olympics program, which provides school involvement for student athletes and enables students and teachers to serve as leaders in the community. Jonathan strives to create opportunities to help students build character, find academic success, and prepare them for life after high school.  






Alicia Fojaco, Sessums Elementary 
Ms. Fojaco has been teaching in Hillsborough County for 7 years. She grew up in Tampa, Florida and is a proud graduate of Hillsborough High School. She continued her education at the University of South Florida, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership with American College of Education. She enjoys being an advocate for all students and teaching how to embrace differences to students, school staff, and the community. Ms. Fojaco enjoys Saturdays on the soccer field with her 10-year-old daughter Frankie Marie, 11-year-old son L.A., and her husband Frankie. 






Meredith Mullen, Lockhart Elementary Magnet 
Meredith was born and raised in New Jersey. She moved to Florida to attend the University of Tampa, where she received her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education. She then moved on to get her Master’s in Special Education at USF. She is most proud of the relationships she has built and maintained with the students and families at Lockhart. Meredith works closely with Where Love Grows, a nonprofit whose mission is to combat childhood hunger. When she is not working or giving back in the community, she is writing curriculum for Tembo, a social enterprise that educates children 0-6 via text message. Meredith is grateful that her husband Chase is so supportive and understanding that her work is never done! 






Instructional Support Employee of the Year

Cindy Nuñez, Claywell Elementary 
Cindy Nuñez was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. Cindy graduated from Hillsborough High School. She attended USF and has an AA degree and a CDA. She has worked for Hillsborough County Schools for 32 years. For the past 25 years, she has been a kindergarten assistant at Claywell Elementary. Cindy works with kindergarten classes, inclusion classes, and bilingual students. Cindy enjoys going to work every day and working with children. She has wonderful family support and two loving sons. Cindy has been nominated three times and is very honored to be a finalist for this award twice. 






Leonard Snead, Lockhart Elementary Magnet 
Mr. Leonard Snead has worked for Hillsborough County Public Schools for 26 years – 16 at Westshore and 10 at Lockhart. Mr. Leonard graduated from William M. Raines Senior High School in Jacksonville, Fl. He is very proud that his children are graduates from Hillsborough County Public Schools, and that his grandchildren are currently attending Stewart Middle and Hillsborough High. Mr. Leonard is a certified master custodian, which came in handy when running a hurricane shelter and transitioning an entire elementary school on our campus. He is inspired by his father’s words, “be the best you can be and be consistent.” This motto leads him in his daily endeavors.






Talina Ugarte, Muller Elementary 
Ms. Talina Ugarte was born in Mexico City, and she recently graduated from Hillsborough Community College earning an associate’s degree in education. She has been an employee of HCPS since 2013. She has been working at Muller Elementary Magnet School for the last four years where she has been nominated two times for the ISEOY. Her biggest accomplishment is raising her two daughters as a single mother, while continuing her professional career. She is one of the organizers of the Multicultural Recycled Fashion Show, member of the Marketing and Culture Committee. She motivates students to reach their full potential through her mentoring and tutoring program, which directly impacts students’ academic achievement and self-esteem.     





Miriam Velez-Hernandez, Dover Elementary 
Mrs. Velez-Hernandez graduated from high school in 1971. As a paraprofessional at Dover Elementary School since 1993, she instantly fell in love with both children and families and believed in them before they believed in themselves. She is committed to helping ESOL students achieve their potential and has been instrumental in raising funds in times of crisis as well as for providing stimulating experiences, from arranging for free funeral services for parents to free bus transportation for a Disney World dream trip. She is involved in the community and has served as Nativity Church’s Hispanic Youth Group Director and has assisted with Relay for Life, fall festivals and Volunteer Appreciation events. Finally, her motivation for these incredible accomplishments is, “Whatever I do for these children today will be reflected in their future.” 





Teacher of the Year

Founding Award Sponsor 


Bonnie Bresnyan, Lewis Elementary 
Bonnie is blessed with the talent of teaching and has made a difference in the lives of young people for 31 years, 20 of those in Hillsborough County. She earned her BA in Education at Florida Atlantic University and completed her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Tennessee Technological University.   Among her accomplishments are: National Board Certification, 2009 HDC Praeceptor Award winner, 2006-07 Ida S. Baker Distinguished Educator of the Year finalist, 2002-03 Teacher of the Year - Shaw Elementary/District Finalist.  Bonnie’s work extends beyond her four classroom walls in that she trains for the District, works with USF in mentoring new teachers and teaches Sunday School.   She holds herself to this standard: “to whom much is given, much is expected.”




Jennifer Jackson, Stewart Middle 
As a distinguished educator, Ms. Jennifer Jackson has taught in Hillsborough County Public Schools for the past five years. Ms. Jackson graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Sciences. Some of her most proud accomplishments include working as a teacher research fellow at Northwestern University and the University of Massachusetts. For the past three years, she has led a service learning project that requires maintaining student created libraries in local community barbershops. Ms. Jackson’s desire to inspire and challenge her students to strive for excellence motivates her to excel as a seasoned STEAM teacher.





Lisabeth Leist, Steinbrenner High 
Lisabeth Leist graduated from the University of Cincinnati with an A.S. in Chemical Engineering Technology, and B.S.  in Mathematics. She has been in HCPS for five years. She is most proud of learning to “live in the moment,” due to a recent severe family illness. Outside of HCPS, her activities include scrapbooking, cooking, biking, and home projects. Inside of HCPS, her activities include helping other teachers incorporate technology, promoting a growth mindset, and engaging the broader professional learning community via participating in and leading Twitter chats. She is most motivated by helping her students achieve their potential. Lisabeth is married, with three children who attend Steinbrenner H.S.





Nicole Meyerson, Carrollwood Elementary 
Nicole Meyerson was born and raised in Ft. Lauderdale Florida. After graduating from Piper High School, she attended the University of South Florida where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. Nicole has taught in Hillsborough County for the past 11 years. She continues to enhance in her teaching craft so that she can help her students grow to their highest potential. Last year, Ms. Meyerson was named one of the top 500 highly qualified teachers in the state of Florida by the Department of Education. She is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree at the University of Tampa in Educational Leadership. 






Alexa Trafficante, Gorrie Elementary 
Alexa Trafficante was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. She attended the University of Central Florida in 2007, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. Since then, she continued in her desired field, and has been employed with Hillsborough County for five years. During that time, she served as a team-leader, Social Studies Lead, Mentorship Program Chair, Sunshine Committee Chair, and many more. While Trafficante’s most proud accomplishment is the growth she sees in her students each year, both academically and socially, she has also been recognized as a High Impact Teacher from the State of Florida. In addition, she will be graduating with a Masters in Educational Leadership from the University of South Florida in May 2018.




Click here to view a full album of pictures from the 2017 Excellence in Education Awards.