Highland Elementary School computer technician James Graves has been named as the Osceola County School District 2020 School-Related Employee of the Year.
He was recognized for his steadfast support for his school and exceptional work ethic, according to a district press release.
For the last six years, Graves has been a computer technician at Highlands Elementary, but the impact he has had on the students, staff, and families at that school go far beyond the job for which he was hired.
As a school computer technician, Graves has shown an understanding for the need to support student learning through his role. The technology needs of teachers and staff are met promptly with professionalism, and he encourages students to grow their knowledge of technology in this high-tech world, district officials said.
However, the things he does at Highlands Elementary in addition to this are what make Graves a true leader in his role and with his colleagues.
Graves built a garden, The Groves at Highlands, for students to learn about and take care of plants. The garden was built using a grant from Home Depot, many hours of work outside of his normal workday, and in partnership with students, parents and staff at the school.
Another grant, from PetSmart, allowed Graves to repair an aquarium that the school now uses as a focal point in the front office. With this project as well, students are invited to help Graves feed and care for the fish.
Continuing to nurture the students’ interests in life outside of the classroom, Graves started the Highlands Eagle Initiative to recognize and educate his school community about the American bald eagle family living in a pine tree on their campus. He has worked with local news, the Audubon Society, Eagle Watch, and the Birds of Prey Sanctuary to build interest and fundraise for an around-the-clock eagle watch camera.
His dedication to students does not stop there. He is the Highlands Elementary soccer coach, leading the team to four years of winning records. He also started the first elementary school chess club, which led the district-wide participation, as well as yearly tournaments where students under his coaching have gone on to become district champions.
Superintendent Debra Pace will now forward his nomination on to the Florida Department of Education for consideration for Florida's 2020 School-Related Employee of the Year Award.