Grisel Fuentes reacts to the announcement that she is the School-Related Employee of the Year.

Lake Lucina ESOL paraprofessional selected as School-Related Employee of the Year

March 27, 2024 – She is an exceptional leader who goes over and beyond to remove language barriers in her school community and make her students feel validated and loved.

That’s how colleagues are describing Grisel Fuentes, an ESOL paraprofessional at Lake Lucina Elementary, who was recently recognized as Team Duval’s School-Related Employee of the Year.

It’s an honor Fuentes says she will never forget.

“I feel so happy and proud to represent Lake Lucina Elementary School among many other schools in the district,” Fuentes said. “As a Puerto Rican woman, it is a great honor to contribute to the education of many students here in Jacksonville while I represent the Hispanic culture.”

A third-year educator with Team Duval, Fuentes works with English Language Learner (ELL) students to help them gain mastery of their core subjects and the English language.

“Last school year, many of her ELL students with the least English proficiency were able to score at or above a Level 3 on the PM3 State Assessment,” said Lake Lucina Principal Michelle Walsh. “She is always up monitoring, circulating, and helping with student needs.”

Jesica Pearce, a teacher at the school, said Fuentes is adored by all her students.  

“She has a way of working with them that allows them to feel validated and loved even when they are struggling the most,” said Pearce. “She helps them with the work they need to complete to meet the grade-level standards by removing the language barrier.”

Fuentes said the most rewarding part of working with her students is witnessing their progress.

“I feel very proud when a student came to me excited to inform me that they got a good grade on a test,” said Fuentes.

In addition to serving students, Fuentes is also celebrated for always being willing to help and for eliminating language barriers when communicating with Spanish-speaking families.

“We often call upon her as a school when we need someone to help translate for a parent,” said Pearce. “However, that barely scratches the surface of her willingness to help. She has sat in on many conferences either on the phone or in person, translated flyers and letters, and even sought out parents in the car rider line to tell them how their children are doing.”

According to Walsh, almost 20% of her families would be missing critical information if it wasn’t for Fuentes.

“She is called on every day to assist with enrollment, questions, concerns, and late dismissal phone calls,” said Walsh. “The relationships she has with our families is built on trust and respect; because of this, parents purposefully seek her out when they need assistance. She truly goes above and beyond, always with a smile, making Lake Lucina a better place to learn, grow, and belong!”

Fuentes was selected among nine stellar finalists for the School-Related Employee of the Year honor. Each finalist was recognized in March at the annual Employee of the Year gala. The full list is below:

Patricia Ann Cobb Paraprofessional Physically Impaired Biltmore Elementary 
Bonnie Elaine Cooper Paraprofessional ASD Bayview Elementary
Darryn Charles Floyd Paraprofessional Middle YWLA / YMLA 
Veronica HernandezParaprofessional EBD Pinedale Elementary
Rodriguez Danard HughesSchool Security Guard Westside Middle
Angela Gail JamesParaprofessional Student Focused Mandarin Oaks Elementary 
Grisel Concepcion MaldonadoParaprofessional ESOL Elem Kernan Trail Elementary
Ambal Stefan German RiveraParaprofessional ESE Love Grove Elementary
Grisel Fuentes Vazquez Paraprofessional ESOL Elem Lake Lucina Elementary

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