Joseph Malfara named Osceola County School District teacher of the year

In recognition of his accomplishments as an outstanding educator, Poinciana High School educator Joseph Malfara was named as Osceola School District’s 2020 Teacher of the Year on Friday.

Each day, he challenges students toward success at Poinciana High School as an English III, Honors, Advanced Placement English Language and Composition Teacher.  

His influence on the campus at Poinciana High School is evident at all levels, from the at-risk students to the highest achieving students, School District officials said.  

Malfara has worked tirelessly to implement many strategies that have led to significant gains and maximize student performance on the SAT. Due to these efforts, Poinciana High has seen “amazing growth from their students,” according to a School District press release. The average student scores increased from 442 to 476 in his content area. They have also seen an increase in the percentage of students meeting their concordance score after their junior year, which went from 47 to 73 percent in just one year.

In Malfara’s classroom, 78 percent of his students met their reading and writing graduation requirement, compared to 57 percent of other junior-level English classes. Much of this success is due to his students’ improved SAT skills, School District officials said.

In addition, Malfara has been at the forefront of leading a mentorship group known as the “Suit Up Society,” which was developed in 2017. The group’s purpose is to mentor young men who have grown up without a positive male influence and to improve their lives academically, behaviorally and socially. Each young man is presented with a shirt and tie from his mentor during a ceremony, where they recite a creed to uphold the values of the group.

The group meets monthly to discuss challenges they face, to listen to motivational speakers, or to just gather to support one another. His involvement with his personal mentee has surpassed expectations. His mentee has raised his grade point average (GPA) from 2.0 to 2.46, and he has enrolled in online classes to continue to boost his GPA.

His leadership in his English Professional Learning Community has helped to drive instruction forward at his school.

He is involved in a variety of school-wide programs designed to help establish or improve the intellectual and cultural richness of the school community. As a member of their Positive Behavior and Intervention Support team, he helps to develop support methods to benefit students and improve their behavior.

He is also one of six members in the ASCEND PLC, which is a program designed to take academically-gifted students and guide them to admittance into a top 25 university upon graduation.

Malfara also inspires his students not only in the classroom but also on the athletic field as an announcer for many of the home athletic events and by posting social media inspirational messages, otherwise known as the daily “Malfaraisms.”

Malfara will now represent Osceola County at the state level in the Florida Department of Education/Macy’s 2020 Teacher of the Year judging.

Julissa Cardona is school-related employee of the year

Julissa Cardona has been named as the 2019 School-Related Employee of the Year for the Osceola School District in recognition of her unwavering support to schools, her outstanding work ethic and her dedication to children and their families, School District officials said.  

For five years, she has been employed in the district’s Special Programs Department, where she currently serves as a title 1 parent liaison.

Her primary focus is the creation and implementation of the Learn2Read program partnership with the Osceola County Library System and the Mommy and Me program at Cypress Elementary.  

As part of the Learn2Read program, she trains over 4,000 parents and 2-year-old and younger students in early childhood literacy. Parents are taught how to engage with their children and deliver educational playtime activities to stimulate early childhood development. In the Mommy and Me program, Cardona trains 1,500 mothers and helps to prepare 3-year-old students to enter pre-kindergarten.

Thanks to her expertise and care, these successful programs have expanded from one to five different library branches, and continue to be the highest attended programs offered at each location, School district officials aid.  Cardona champions parent engagement in education on a daily basis, and serves as an important and respected resource for the parents and children in the community.

Superintendent Debra Pace will now forward her nomination on to the Florida Department of Education for consideration for the State’s 2019 School-Related Employee of the Year Award.

Both the teacher of the year and school-related employee of the year will each receive a two-year lease on a car from Starling and a $500 gift card from our silver sponsor Central Florida Educators Federal Credit Union.

They also receive:

• A Walt Disney World annual pass for themselves and each member of their immediate family and a Disney Mousecar award.

• A $500 gift card and a mini organizer from Tupperware.

• A signed basketball  by  the Orlando Magic.

• A signed football by the Orlando Apollos.