Keyword for this page: Awards


The Polk County School Board has many events and programs celebrating the accomplishments and hard work of our staff, community partners and students from both the present and the past. The following recognition events are coordinated by the Community Relations Department.

Hall of Fame

The Polk County Schools Hall of Fame was created in 1985 to recognize former students of Polk County Public Schools who have gone on to distinguish themselves in their careers or communities. Since its inception, the Hall of Fame has inducted over 100 former students. Hall of Fame members are from the arts, business, clergy, education, entertainment, government, law, military, medicine, sports or other fields.

2014 Hall of Fame Applications

Click here to download a 2014 Hall of Fame Application (word).
Click here to download a 2014 Hall of Fame Application (PDF).

2013 Inductees

Congratulations to Colonel James E. Baker, Jr., Larry D. Hardaway, Esquire, and Joseph “Joe” G. Tedder, CFC

Colonel James E. Baker, Jr.Colonel James E. Baker, Jr. graduated from Auburndale High in 1984 and went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Factors Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Artillery in May of 1988. Upon his return from the Gulf War with the Second Armored Division in April 1991, COL Baker attended flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and earned the rating of Army Aviator. He is a graduate of the Field Artillery Officer Basic Course, Aviation Officer Advanced Course, Command and General Staff College, Joint and Combined Warfighting School (JPME II), and holds a Master’s Degree in Business Management from Webster University. COL Baker’s previous assignments include Fire Direction Officer, Platoon Leader, and Battery XO, 1st Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 2d Armored Division, Fort Hood, TX; Operations Officer, 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 6th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, AK; Company Commander, 1st Battalion, 82d Aviation Brigade, 82d Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, NC; Tactics Instructor, Fire Support and Combined Arms Operations Directorate, Field Artillery School, Fort Sill, OK; Executive Officer, 4th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 2d Infantry Division, ROK; Operations Officer, 1st Battalion, 82d Aviation Brigade, 82d Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, NC; Operations Officer, 82d Aviation Brigade, 82d Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, NC; Course Director for Leadership Studies, Department of Leadership, Command, and Professional Development (DEP), Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base, AL; Commander, 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division(L), Fort Drum, NY; and Deputy Commander, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division(L), Fort Drum, NY. Operational deployments include Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Provide Comfort, and three deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. COL Baker’s military awards and decorations include the Senior Army Aviator, Senior Parachutist, German Parachutist, and Air Assault Badges; the Bronze Star Medal with three oak leaf clusters; the Air Medal with numeral 2; the Defense Meritorious Service Medal; the Meritorious Service Medal with 6 oak leaf clusters, the Army Commendation Medal with 2 oak leaf clusters, and the Army Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster. He is rated in the UH-1 (Huey), OH-58A/C Kiowa, and the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior light scout/attack helicopters. In 2004, COL Baker was inducted into the Auburndale High Hall of Fame for his career achievements.

Larry D. Hardaway, EsquireLarry D. Hardaway practices Personal Injury Law and Criminal Law in the firm of Larry D. Hardaway & Associates, P.A. After graduating from Winter Haven High in 1972, Mr. Hardaway attended Davidson College on a football scholarship and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science. Mr. Hardaway was the first African-American student to be named Senior Class President at Winter Haven High and was the third African-American to ever play football for Davidson College. Interested in pursuing a career in law, Mr. Hardaway went on to graduate from the University of Florida Law School and began his first job at the State Attorney’s Office in Bartow, Florida in 1979. Prior to opening his law firm in Polk County, Mr. Hardaway worked as Managing Attorney for the Legal Division in Miami and JESCA Legal Division where he represented small minority businesses and corporations. In 1985, he received the Dade County Bar Award and the Public Interest Law Bank Award for providing legal services to public entities. Mr. Hardaway is well-versed in the field of law, having served as a prosecutor, public defender, private practice lawyer and economic development attorney. He was appointed to the Florida Elections Commission in 1994 by Governor Lawton Chiles. In 1998, he became President of the Polk County Voters League and in 2000 he served as the campaign manager for Gary Siplin during his successful run to be elected to the Florida State Legislature. Rewarded for his efforts and dedication, in the year 2000 Mr. Hardaway received the Florida Bar Pro Bono Award of the 10th Judicial Circuit for providing pro bono services to the community. Committed to the community where he lives and works, Mr. Hardaway is a member of several community organizations including the Virgil Hawkins Bar Association, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., college alumni and booster clubs as well as the Florida and Lakeland Bar Associations.

Joseph "Joe" G. Tedder, CFCJoseph “Joe” G. Tedder was elected as Tax Collector for Polk County, Florida in 1996 and has subsequently been re-elected for the past four terms. Prior to his role as Tax Collector, Mr. Tedder served in the Florida Legislature as State Representative, House District No. 64 from 1992 to 1996. While in Legislature, his accomplishments in just four years are notable, specifically because he was responsible for the passage of many legislative initiatives dealing with accountability and performance including the Federal Financial Assistance Act (1995), Learnfare Legislation (1995), Performance & Accountability Program (1994), Innovations Legislation (1994) and the Public Charter Schools Law (1996). He holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Florida Southern College and worked as an accountant with the firm of Tedder, Grimsley and Company, CPA for over 10 years. A 1980 graduate of Lakeland High, Mr. Tedder has contributed greatly to the quality of life for Polk County, the State of Florida and the citizens for whom he has served. His leadership on a personal level has brought great value to Polk County through his community service efforts on numerous boards which include the United Way, Polk Vision, Lighthouse Ministries, VISTE, American Heart Association, Polk County Seminole Boosters, Sunshine Council of Camp Fire, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Lakeland. He is also a member of Polk Vision’s “Leadership Polk” Inaugural Class and a graduate of Leadership Lakeland Class XIII. One of Mr. Tedder’s most notable examples of community leadership and compassion for Polk County is exhibited through his creation and development of the Kids Tag Art Project, a creative design and fundraising project which originated at the Polk County Tax Collector’s Office and involves nearly every elementary school throughout Polk County. In just five years, with the help of key sponsors, service organizations and a strong partnership with Polk County Public Schools, Kids Tag Art has now raised over $100,000 for classroom art supplies. As a result of this project, Mr. Tedder was awarded the 2009 Florida Arts Educators Award and Polk Education Foundation Partnership Award, the 2011 Community Arts Recognition Program Award (CARP), as well as numerous awards from the Polk Museum of Art, Junior Women’s Club of Lakeland and Polk County Public Schools.

Complete list of inductees »

The 2013 Hall of Fame sponsors are: AT&T, Polk Education Foundation and Publix Super Markets Charities.

Polk County Teacher and School-Related Employee of the Year Awards Program

Teacher and School-Related Employee of the Year

Congratulations to Christie Bassett of Highlands Grove Elementary and Carlos Miguez of George Jenkins High, 2014 Polk County Teacher and School-Related Employee of the Year. Click here for more information on this year's Polk County Teacher of the Year and School-Related Employee of the Year.

About Face Awards

The About Face Award recognizes secondary students who have made a significant turn around in their behavior, academic achievement and attendance in school. One student from each middle and high school in the district receive the award annually at the Awards Program. Students are nominated by their school and receive a medallion for their success.

This event is made possible through the sponsorship of TECO Energy.

To view a list of this year's About Face winners click here.

For more information, contact the Department of Public Relations & Strategic Partnerships

Master Key Awards

2013 Master Key Recipients

Heather WallaceHeather Wallace
For the past fifteen years, Heather Wallace has worked hard to build relationships with the families of students with disabilities at Highland City Elementary. She has served as a tireless advocate for inclusion, providing strategies for classroom teachers and encouragement for students and families.

For her strong interpersonal skills and tireless advocacy, 2013 Master Key Award is presented to Heather Wallace from Highland City Elementary

Martha DickinsonMartha Dickinson
For more than 20 years Martha Dickinson found teaching an exciting daily exploration of each student’s learning style. She incorporates gardening into her curriculum and Dundee Elementary has enjoyed the vegetables and butterflies that appear as she teaches reading, math and science concepts to her eager students.

For her dedication, creativity and determination, Martha Dickinson has earned the 2013 Master Key Award

Valencia SandersValencia Sanders
Valencia Sanders has an uncanny ability to effectively instruct and insure quality educational access for her students. She is an expert in assisting students to access courses through Virtual School classes and modifying curriculum to meet the unique learning styles of cognitively impaired students.

For her tenacity, expertise, and effectiveness, Valencia Sanders has earned the 2013 Master Key Award.

Randall LibbyRandall Libby
Randall Libby has been proactive in arranging testing of basic literacy skills for his students at Auburndale High, enabling them to enroll in programs at Traviss and Ridge Career Center. This has provided them the opportunity to maximize their ability to earn a living and become life long learners.

For his initiative and commitment, Randall Libby is awarded the 2013 Master Key Award.

Pam MoorePam Moore
Pam Moore is a relentless advocate for deaf and hearing impaired students. Her strong connection with the First Aviation Sertoma Club has resulted in the donation of hearing aids totaling more than $5000 for students.

For her initiative and commitment, Pam Moore from Southwest Middle is awarded the 2013 Master Key Award.

The extraordinary efforts that teachers of exceptional students make to help them achieve their maximum potential. They award the Master Key award to four exceptional education teachers who have demonstrated excellence, perseverance and longevity in their careers.

These awards are made possible through the sponsorship of TECO Energy.

For more information, contact the Department of Public Relations & Strategic Partnerships

Volunteer of the Year

2013 Inductees

De'Aonte helping a student with schoolworkOutstanding Youth Volunteer of the Year
De’Aonte Broome
Garner Elementary

De’Aonte has been an active and invaluable member of the Garner family since high school. His contributions include tutoring students in math and reading, volunteering at summer reading camp and mentoring. His graduation from the Police Academy has given students a living example of the rewards that hard work and perseverance bring.

Petra Gonzalez reads to studentsOutstanding Adult Volunteer of the Year
Elementary level
Petra Gonzalez
Dundee Elementary

Since 1995, Petra has served Dundee Elementary as a volunteer. She is a mentor to students and families assuring that members of the Hispanic community become full partners in their children’s education. Students learn their alphabet and master high frequency words through her patient and skillful tutoring. She is a source of positive help and comfort for families in need.

Richard Abbott assisting student with homeworkOutstanding Adult Volunteer of the Year
Secondary level
Richard Abbott
Stambaugh Middle

Helping students overcome life’s challenges is the mission of Richard Abbott’s volunteer service. The victim of a bicycling accident at age 20, Richard was left with traumatic brain injury. He has chosen to mentor Stambaugh Middle students who are academically and socially challenged.

Nat West pointing to computer Outstanding Senior Volunteer of the Year
Secondary level
Nat West
Winter Haven High

Nat doesn’t just get involved, he gets others involved. He created the Career Connection program at Winter Haven High to provide direction for students as they consider their future occupations. He has recruited more than 100 community mentors who meet weekly with students to share experiences and guidance that will help them be successful in the career of their choice.

Mike Howell at the outdoor classroom Outstanding Senior Volunteer of the Year
Elementary level
Mike Howell
Davenport School of the Arts

As a member of the Master Gardeners Association, Mike Howell has created a five acre outdoor classroom at Davenport School of the Arts. He has marshaled the resources of the District Facilities Department, Lowe’s and local civic organizations to fulfill the school’s vision that includes hydroponic gardening, drought resistant plantings, fruit bearing trees and a performance stage.


Trentin Kelly rakingOutstanding Youth Volunteer of the Year
Secondary level
Trentin Kelly
Jean O’Dell Learning Center

Trentin has helped students in the Agriculture and Science departments at Jean O’Dell Learning Center since he was in the 9th grade. He has prepared trees, plants and vegetables for student’s classroom assignments and helps them feed the livestock. Jean O’Dell students look up to him as a role model, a counselor and a source of wisdom.


Volunteer of the Year is sponsored by The Ledger.

For more information, contact the Department of Public Relations & Strategic Partnerships