In the News: HCPS Teachers and Staff to be Honored at 2022 EIE Awards


For additional information, contact:
Kendra Oestreich, Director of Communications
Cell: (813) 944-9510 [email protected] 

Hillsborough County Honors Outstanding Teachers and Staff at the 2022 Excellence in Education Awards 

Who: Hillsborough Education Foundation in partnership with Hillsborough County Public Schools 

What: 2022 Excellence in Education Awards honoring Hillsborough’s top teachers and support personnel 

When: Thursday, January 20, 2022 

  • Reception begins at 4:30 p.m. 
  • Awards ceremony 6-7:15 p.m.

Where: Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa, 33602—Morsani Hall 

(January 18, 2022) TAMPA – Every day, more than 24,000 teachers and district staff in Hillsborough County Public Schools are making a difference in students’ lives and providing a sense of normalcy during uncertain times. On Thursday, 675 outstanding nominees from schools across the district—including thirteen finalists—will be honored and one finalist will be named the winner in each category for 2022 Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year, Instructional Support Employee of the Year and Teacher of the Year. 

Hillsborough Eduation Foundation in partnership with Hillsborough County Public Schools, 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, at our 2022 Excellence in Education Awards presented by Suncoast Credit Union. In planning this special event, we are keeping guests’ health at the forefront of all our decision making to help ensure this is an enjoyable and safe celebration for everyone. 

We are putting preventative measures in place to reduce the spread of the virus and following the COVID-19 protocols implemented by the Straz Center, which states: As of January 5, 2022, all attendees ages 5 and older will be required to show proof of one of the following to enter the Straz Center: 

  • a negative PCR test administered by a medical provider/official testing center no earlier than 72 hours before the time of the event.
  • a negative rapid antigen test administered by a medical provider/official testing center no earlier than 24 hours prior to the time of the event. Home testing kit results will not be accepted for entry.
  • a CDC COVID-19 vaccination card may be volunteered proving the individual is fully vaccinated.

Adults must show photo ID with their vaccination card or test results. Both physical and electronic presentation of vaccination cards and test results will be accepted. If a guest needs to get tested and are unable to prior to the day of the event, we will offer rapid testing at the Straz Center at a cost of $25 per person. 

We are also taking these additional steps to mitigate risks during the voluntary, after-school hours celebration: 

  • Masks are required at all times inside the Straz Center, except when eating or drinking. 
  • We will have a reduced crowd size from previous years.
  • We are modifying layouts to support physical distancing before and during the event.
  • We have made the decision to not hold an After Party. The event will conclude after the ceremony.
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers can be found throughout the venue for use.
  • We offered refund requests last week for guests who purchased tickets but are opting not to attend.

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Members of the media interested in covering the event must follow all COVID-19 protocols for entry. Please contact Kendra Oestreich if you’re planning to send a photographer/reporter. Media check-in is at the HEF/HCPS Invited Guests table. 

You will be receiving additional embargoed information Wednesday afternoon that includes the three winners’ names, biographies and pictures. In addition, each of the winners’ schools has a surprise planned for Friday morning to celebrate their respective winner. You are invited to attend those surprise celebrations and will be receiving embargoed information about those events as well for planning purposes. 

2022 Excellence in Education Awards Facts 

Total Nominees – 675 

Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year Nominees: 225 

Instructional Support Employee of the Year Nominees: 220 

Teacher of the Year Nominees: 230 

Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year Finalists 

Liisa DiTarando, McKitrick Elementary Second Grade Teacher 

Kristine Kelly, Potter Elementary Resource Teacher 

Bernadette London, Lomax Elementary Fifth Grade Teacher 

Benigno Lopez, Shields Middle Success Coach 

Karian Rivera, Reddick Elementary First Grade Teacher 

Instructional Support Employee of the Year Finalists 

Anita Garcia, Mitchell Elementary Data Processor 

Steve Lunin, Sickles High Student Nutrition Services Manager 

Faith Smith, Temple Terrace Elementary Parent Liaison Aide 

Teacher of the Year Finalists 

Melissa Bondoc, Summerfield Elementary Second Grade Teacher 

Sonya Kelly, Tampa Palms Elementary, Third Grade Teacher 

Jennifer Price, Lanier Elementary Fifth Grade ELA Teacher 

Laura Widerberg, Armwood High Biology Teacher 

Trista Willard, Mendenhall Elementary Third Grade Teacher 

About Hillsborough Education Foundation 

Established in 1987, Hillsborough Education Foundation (HEF) is a nonprofit focused on strengthening public education by supporting teachers and empowering students to achieve academic and personal success. Together with our community partners, HEF strategically invests in initiatives that impact teaching quality, increase graduation rates and build equity in education—bolstering a thriving workforce of tomorrow and the sustainable prosperity of Tampa Bay. Learn more at 

About Hillsborough Schools Hillsborough County Public Schools is America’s seventh largest school district and the largest in central Florida. We have more than 230 public schools, 24,000+ employees and 217,000+ students. Hillsborough Schools is proudly celebrating the highest graduation rate in our district’s history: 89.2% in the 2020-2021 school year. All twenty-seven of our high schools were recently listed in the US News and World Report Best High Schools ranking report. Hillsborough Schools boasts the 2020 #1 Elementary Magnet School of the Year—MacFarlane Park Elementary, the Florida Teacher of the Year, Dr. Dakeyan Graham of King High, and the Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching Winner, Tiffany Oliver of Robinson High. See our website at for more information. 


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