Ana Rubio

Position: Physical Education Teacher

School: Earlington Heights Elementary

School District: Miami-Dade County Public Schools

City, State: Brownsville, Florida

About the Nominee: Ana Rubio was nominated by Stephen Young, a member of her community.

Ms. Rubio began teaching more than 16 years ago with a mission to make a difference in every students’ life. As a single mother with three sons, she is aware of the effect public education and school involvement has on the lives of young people. She realized that students who enjoyed learning, both inside and outside the classroom, were more successful than their less interested peers. Ms. Rubio has enriched the lives of many disadvantaged students throughout South Florida through sparking their interest in education.

Ms. Rubio founded a non-profit called Streamline Miami to help underprivileged students stay active and healthy after school. The organization can be summarized by its motto: “Breaking Barriers by Supporting Education; Because Every Child Deserves a Chance.” Streamline Miami started off as a baseball program for students. The group consisted of three teams that would travel across Florida and compete against other local baseball teams. Coaches taught children respect for others, how to work towards a common goal and fair play. Ms. Rubio’s dedication to the students paid off, as six of the program’s participants received college baseball scholarships. Streamline Miami provides underprivileged students a healthy and productive outlet for their energy outside school.

The success of Streamline Miami’s baseball program allowed Ms. Rubio to expand the reach of the organization. It evolved into a group that would provide underprivileged students with local cultural experiences, such as attending South Florida art museums and music festivals. Streamline Miami also began raising money from the local community for more books and teaching instruments inside the classroom. The group has purchased Kindles for students to read during class and has provided schools with pencils, pens and notebooks. Ms. Rubio’s motto is “Every student deserves access to high quality education.” Through Streamline Miami, she is ensuring that underprivileged students do not fall through the cracks.

Another of Ms. Rubio’s goals is to make sure students are prepared for higher education. “Too many underprivileged students see graduating high school as the end of education,” she once said. “We try to show them that college is the next step towards success.” Ms. Rubio makes children interested in higher education by taking them to local universities such as the University of Miami and Florida International University. Students can experience first-hand life on a college campus. They see the sports teams, the school pageantry and the independence of college students. These college visits have a profound impact on children in Streamline Miami.

Streamline Miami continues to evolve and reach more students in South Florida. Its positive impact on the lives of young Miami-Dade students has been noticed throughout the community. Ms. Rubio has raised money for the organization through crowd funding, individual family donations and by getting other Earlington Heights Elementary teachers involved. Streamline Miami has even been able to court major corporate sponsors, including Winn Dixie, Finish Line Youth Foundation, Florida International University, University of Miami, Butler Center for Student Services and Leadership, Office Depot and National Children’s Theatre. Ms. Rubio has been adamant about giving credit to Earlington Heights Elementary School’s principal, Mr. Jackson Nicolas, as well as the school’s administration. “Without the support of my principal and my school, I do not know if Streamline Miami would have been possible.”

Ms. Rubio’s work in Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Streamline Miami continues to help underprivileged students across South Florida. Her work is not over until every student has the opportunity to realize their full potential.

Johanna Lopez

Position: World Languages Resource Teacher

School: Orange County Public Schools

School District: Orange County Public Schools

City, State: Orlando, Florida

About the Nominee: Johanna Lopez was nominated by Orange County Public Schools superintendent, Barbara Jenkins. “Crecemos juntos.” Or, in English, “We grow together.”

That is the philosophy of Johanna Lopez when she enters her classroom. She has been teaching at Colonial High School since 1999, and she believes that caring teachers and an appreciation for one’s culture are key ingredients for student success.

In her case, it shows. During the 2014-15 school year, 100 percent of her Advanced Placement (AP) Spanish students passed their AP Spanish exams. Ms. Lopez also helped increase the enrollment in AP Spanish to more than 400 students in a record 12 AP Spanish classes, up from less than 100 a few short years ago.

If you sit in on any of her classes, you’ll see why. She makes every student feel valued and loved, and that they can achieve anything they want. “I feel so honored to be a teacher,” Lopez says, “not only because I’m inspired by my students, but also because I can inspire them to find their path with dignity, pride and confidence.”

Success in the classroom is only part of the approach that Ms. Lopez takes to change the lives of her students. As the creator and advisor of the Hispanic Honor Society, she steered the group towards completing more than 2,100 hours of community service. Additionally, through work with Mi Familia Vota, Ms. Lopez held a voter registration drive that resulted in more than 500 Colonial High School students becoming new voters.

The commitment Ms. Lopez has for her students was recently recognized when she was named as the Orange County Public Schools Teacher of the Year. She was selected among 186 other nominees from schools across the district.

Ms. Lopez is the first Hispanic Teacher in the history of the Florida district to be honored. She will now serve as the district’s nominee for the 2017 Florida Department of Education/Macy’s Teacher of the Year.

Ms. Lopez is dedicated, service-minded and passionate about ensuring that her students grow intellectually and as leaders in our community. She has changed the lives of countless students for nearly two decades, and her drive for teaching is worthy of honor.

Michele Mohl

Position: SAI Teacher/School-Based Team Leader/Teacher on Assignment

School: Palmetto Elementary School

School District: Palm Beach Schools

City, State: West Palm Beach, Florida

About the Nominee: Michelle Mohl was nominated by her principal, Gladys Harris.

Michelle Mohl is currently a Teacher on Assignment (TOSA) who goes above and beyond the call of duty. She is responsible for assisting administration and is available to assist anyone who needs her. She mentors teachers, assists the children in Palmetto Elementary’s EBD unit, and has even opened a bike shop where students are able to fix bikes and donate them to families in need.

Ms. Mohl is also responsible for overseeing fifth grade patrols and helping each of them attain their goal of going on the fifth grade Washington D.C. trip. She helps them with fundraising and finding donors who would be willing to sponsor their trip. In many ways, raising this kind of money is a full time job.

Ms. Mohl works late hours and weekends to help her students and their families. She has coordinated garage sales and school events and works with outside agencies in helping the students. Whether it’s for fundraising or tutoring, she is available any time during the day or night. She has even volunteered to work during the summer to tutor students so they won’t regress.

Ms. Mohl is also responsible for the school’s food bank. She packs meals for families every week and makes sure the food bank is stocked. She oversees and, at times, hand delivers meals to the school’s families and other local families in need. There is no one she has said “no” to. In fact, she has adopted in her heart one of the students that attends Palmetto and does everything a grandparent or parent would do for a child. Ms. Mohl organizes the holiday food and toy drive, making deliveries as needed. If they are short, she pulls out of her own pocket to cover the expenses.

She also gets her own family involved with helping the families of Palmetto. Her daughters have provided support to the school through tutoring and mentoring students. Ms. Mohl is also the SBT leader and knows the students and their families by name. When needed, she provides transportation to parents so they can participate meetings for their children. There is nothing that she wouldn’t do for the students and families of Palmetto, and for that, she is an outstanding LifeChanger!