ORANGE COUNTY – The four Stellar winners honored this evening during a gala at the Rosen Shingle Creek represent the first time the winners have all been men. They were chosen from among the best teachers, support personnel, principals and assistant principals in Orange County Public Schools. They were recognized in a ceremony that also celebrated more than 450 honorees and 16 finalists from across 210 schools and other departments. The completed broadcast can be watched at stellarawards.ocps.net.
“Hats off to all of the honorees, finalists and our four amazing districtwide winners,” said Superintendent Maria F. Vazquez. “It’s exciting to see more men have entered the education profession, where many are excelling and serving as great role models for all of our students.”
This year’s winners are:
Francisco Cardoza, 5th Grade Teacher, Village Park Elementary: Cardoza is an educator who transports, transforms and elevates students through his teaching. It starts at the beginning of the day, when students are welcomed to his class with a handshake and a high-five. Cardoza’s classroom is a high-energy place, with motivational chants, songs and movement infused in the instruction. He is also known for radical classroom transformations. He recently turned his room into a NASCAR race track, where he engaged students in lessons about force, motion and fractions while wearing an orange racing jumpsuit.
Alex Rodriguez, Bilingual Paraprofessional, Vista Pointe Elementary: Rodriguez, a bilingual paraprofessional, goes beyond his job duties to encourage and assist students, especially the school’s English-language learners. Colleagues say he is the friendly face many children look forward to seeing every day. He works with intervention groups, helping some of the school’s most struggling readers. “Students love learning, we just have to find ways to include them in the fun,” Rodriguez said. He also leads the school News Crew and is enrolled in the Pathways to Teaching program at Rollins College, where he is studying to become an elementary educator.
Robert Strenth, Principal, Prairie Lake Elementary: Robert Strenth is known for championing his staff and students and serving everyone he encounters. He points to his upbringing as shaping him into the educator he is today. Strenth and his mom, who didn’t finish high school, moved frequently. He grew up without a hometown or extended family, and struggled with academics. Strenth decided to become a changemaker after he graduated from high school. He pursued an education career because he wanted to be the teacher he never had as a child.
John Miller, Assistant Principal (former), Meadowbrook MS: John Miller, who was recently promoted to Principal at Meadowbrook Middle, is known on campus for his ability to develop meaningful relationships with even the most challenging students. As a child, he thrived despite violence and incarceration in his family. He spent many formative years in foster care. Those experiences help him quickly identify early warning indicators for at-risk students. John wants every student to succeed,” said former Meadowbrook Middle principal David Hardrick. “Conquering those challenges has made him a force for youth.”
The winners will represent OCPS in upcoming state-level contests, including 2024 Florida Teacher of the Year, 2024 Florida School Related Employee of the Year, the 2023 Florida Department of Education Principal Achievement Award for Outstanding Leadership and the 2023 Florida Department of Education Outstanding Assistant Principal Achievement Award.
Addition Financial, the Stellar Awards Galaxy Sponsor, helped make the 2022-23 Stellar Awards possible.