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Spirit of Excellence awards celebrates ELLs
Posted on 04/26/2019
Students receive awards SOE 2019

On April 24, the Multilingual and Corrective Programs departments hosted their annual Spirit of Excellence Awards at Evans High School’s Performing Arts Center.


Orange County Public Schools encourages, embraces and promotes bilingualism and multiculturalism and believes that all of its students, including English Language Learners, have the potential to become the most successful students in the nation.


The individuals honored made considerable strides in their lives, both academically and personally. The evening was dedicated to celebrating these students’ drive to be successful and the educators who helped them achieve more than they thought possible.


The following English Language Learners were recognized for their academic achievement: Guadalupe Aguilar

Aisha Alabyad

Moises Aleman Valbuena

Karen Avila

Anabeyra Bartolon-Gonzalez

Filippo Carnabuci

Yicsia Cepero Alvarez

Yuliza Cervantes-Aparicio

Juan Jose Chica Otalvaro

Aimeé Cosme Vera

Xavier Cruz

Luis A. Cruz

Edgar Davila Bocanell

Henrique De Azevedo Dias Gomes

Marianna Días

Fabian Diaz Mestre

Laura Espinosa Rodriguez

Lulinha Fils-Aime

Melissa Fonseca

Alison Gómez

Gabriel Guerrier

Maria Hernandez Golindano

Zareth Hurtado Marin

Mischka J​ean-Baptiste

Amanda Lamb ​Gonzalez

Mariana L​é​vchenko

Leticia Malavazzi

Nicole Marrero Rawlinson

Larry Mejia-Martinez

Orlimaríe Morales Salas

Diego Martin Neco Muniz

Pavel Nieto Gonzalez

J​oao Pedro Nolasco

Jaanys Olivar Jimenez

Enid Orengo Pagán

Isabella Perlati Zambelo

Victor Pierralt Diaz

Muhammad Rasheed

Sharon Reyes Rodriguez

Maribelís Robles Rivera

Sofia Rojas

Mike Rojas

Maria Valentina Romero Gonzalez

Taina Samedi

María Sanchez Ramos

Ion Sirbu

Miguelangel Soto Rito

Isis Taylor Lopéz

J​oshua Termidor

Steven Thang

Javier Torres Gutierrez

Orbin Valentin Román

Samuel Valles

Gabriela Vivas Sanabría

Stephany Zepeda Carias


The following staff members were recognized for their commitment and dedication to helping ELLs achieve academic success.

Jennifer Alami

Genese Benitez

Lorimar Bermudez

Olga Bernal

Ana Bondi

Clarisa Colon-González

Carmen Crosby-Garcia

Yeralis Cruz Laza

J​oanne David

Emy Delgado

Nairobi Fowler

Abdias Garcia

David Hearn

Sian Heetai

Dr. Nora Hogan

Paul J​anvier

Mila Legere

Maribel Maeso Ocasio

Samantha Rosenthal

Luz Seda


The evening also celebrated three school principals for their efforts to support the ELL populations at their schools and within their communities.


The principal winners are:

Margarita Zizza, Wyndham Lakes Elementary, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She received bilingual education and endorses its value.  She has served as a classroom teacher, an instructional resource teacher, an assistant principal and principal within OCPS. She has a strong understanding of curriculum and instruction and the impact it has on students. As a second language learner, bilingual teacher, SIOP trained educator, and former ESOL Endorsement Facilitator, she has a strong understanding of language acquisition, how students adapt to a new culture and the best classroom practices to help students succeed. She further understands the needs of bilingual students and students with limited English proficiency and arranges supports for their success. She and her staff strongly believe that setting high expectations for all students is essential to their success.


Andrew Jackson, Bridgewater Middle, believes all students deserve equal access to education and a language barrier should not prevent them from the array of opportunities available. To ensure student academic success, his team has built a strong partnership with their ELL community.  At Bridgewater, he provided teachers with opportunities to develop best practices to support ELL students, like ELL strategies professional development courses, and he ensures that his school offers extended learning to ELL students through a focused tutoring program. The tutoring sessions build students capacity in all subject areas. He and his staff work to build and maintain relationships with their ELL community stakeholders. They offer ELL nights to give families the full scope of what an American public education system entails. This provides families with a voice and a safe space to share their praises, concerns and to build community.



Jennifer Bellinger, Oak Ridge High, is a product of OCPS. She graduated from West Orange High School and been an educator within the district for 21 years; serving as a principal at Meadow Woods Middle, Memorial Middle, and currently Oak Ridge High School. Her goal in life is to make a difference in the lives of her students by opening doors and providing opportunities for them to reach success.  In her tenure as principal at Oak Ridge High, she has lead her staff in accomplishing the following with their ELL student population:

  • learning gains in math increased by 11% from 2017 ​to​ 2018

  • achievement in U.S. History increased by 17% from 2017​ to ​2018

  • achievement in biology increased by 14% from 2017 ​to​ 2018.