By MITCH TRAPHAGEN
For the second year in a row, the Hillsborough Education Foundation has named a South County teacher to receive one of its highest awards. Last week, Julia Sarmiento, a teacher at Beth Shields Middle School in Ruskin, was named the 2014 Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year during a ceremony at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa.
Sarmiento was chosen from 710 nominees for the annual Excellence in Education awards, which are presented by the Suncoast Credit Union Foundation and hosted by the Hillsborough Education Foundation and Hillsborough County Public Schools.
As part of the award, Sarmiento received a complimentary limousine ride to work on Feb. 20, arriving among school buses to a large group of cheering students and school staff.
When asked about the limousine ride, Sarmiento replied, “It was very quiet on the way over, and I had a moment to realize that we are making a difference here. I appreciate the accolades but want the community to realize that good things come out of here.”
And that has been her focus since being chosen for the award. During the presentation at the Straz Center, the Wimauma native wasn’t immediately aware that she had won.
“I actually didn’t hear it because people were screaming,” she said with a laugh. “But I couldn’t wait to spotlight the students and the community. I wanted the message to be so clear that I love my community, I love where I’m from, and I want more of our students to walk across the stage to graduate.”
And while she credits her students, her colleagues at Shields Middle School and the school itself, she provides herself as an example to others.
“Don’t give up on your dreams,” Sarmiento said. “Have your goals. You can make it. I’m just a little girl from Wimauma. I came through Wimauma Elementary, Eisenhower and East Bay. I’m doing what I love because I know it is my calling.”
Amscot Financial sponsored the Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the year award. The Instructional Support Employee of the Year award, sponsored by The Rays Baseball Foundation, went to Amy Peters of Willis Peters ESE Center. The 2014 Teacher of the Year award, sponsored by Caspers Company McDonald’s Restaurants, went to Patrick Boyko of Jefferson High School.
For more information about the Hillsborough Education Foundation, visit www.educationfoundation.com.