MCPS paraprofessional wins Florida’s 2024 School-Related Employee of the Year

[Marion County Public Schools]

Home » Education
Posted April 22, 2024 | By Caroline Brauchler

Saddlewood Elementary paraprofessional Edward Lanza has been named as the statewide winner of the School-Related Employee of the Year competition by the Florida Department of Education.

Lanza, a U.S. Army veteran, has worked at Saddlewood Elementary School since 2016 and assists in the school’s media center to distribute Chromebooks, troubleshoot technology issues and check books in and out for students.

“Even if I get through to one child and have them succeed, it’s very satisfying,” Lanza said in a recent interview after being chosen as a finalist.

He was selected out of thousands as a finalist for the state of Florida after winning Marion County’s School-Related Employee of the Year honor in December 2023. Saddlewood Elementary Principal Heather Lipira nominated Lanza for Marion County’s 2024 School-Related Employee of the Year Award.

“He’s very humble. When he got nominated (for the statewide award), he didn’t want to accept it,” Lipira said when Lanza was chosen as a finalist. “We were like, ‘No, you’re going to accept this, because you are amazing, and you work hard for us.’”

Before joining the Marion County school district, Lanza served in the Army, was a chief in a New York volunteer fire department and worked as a project manager at a Fortune 500 company.

“I was in the Army from 1970 to 1976. I was honorably discharged, and I was an infantry soldier in the Vietnam War,” Lanza said.

In addition to his duties in the media center, Lanza has also worked in exceptional student education classrooms and helped students with reading and math, according to FDOE.

“I think he’s a jack of all trades and a master of all,” Lipira said.

Lanza was surprised by MCPS officials, including Superintendent Diane Gullett, as they presented him with the award at Saddlewood Elementary on Monday morning.

In addition to the honor of receiving the 2024 Florida School-Related Employee of the Year award, Lanza will also receive a $10,000 cash prize from the DOE and a custom trophy for the honor.

“I feel very proud and honored to be selected for this, really,” Lanza said.

Excellence in education runs in the Lanza family; his son Christopher Lanza is the media specialist at Ward-Highlands Elementary School. Christopher Lanza was a finalist for Marion County’s Teacher of the Year award in 2021.

“I just knew his son’s work ethic and knew that Mr. Lanza was very similar to his son, and so I got him over here to work in my inclusion classroom with my special-needs students,” Lipira said.

Lanza was selected out of four other state finalists. The other school employees who made the finals were Terry Bagby, an after-school program coordinator from Quest Elementary School in Brevard Public Schools; James Sorrentino, a campus advisor and security officer at Buddy Taylor Elementary School in Flagler Schools; Jennifer Fries, a student data specialist at A.D. Henderson University School & FAU High School; and Doris Cabrera-Jerez, a school administrative assistant at Wellington Elementary School in the School District of Palm Beach County.

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