Paws for Peace and Big Cat Rescue

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Lowry Teacher Wins $10,000 Award

Published: May 15, 2008

COUNTRYWAY – Lowry Elementary celebrated Monday the attention two of its teachers received from the Hillsborough County School District.

Marlene Sacarello and Sandra Layman both were recognized under the district's annual We Deliver award for excellence.

Educators, students and parents submitted nominations online in February for 387 district employees. A committee whittled the nominations to five finalists, and Superintendent MaryEllen Elia selected the winner.

Sacarello, a second-grade teacher at Lowry, won the award, receiving $10,000 courtesy of an anonymous donor through the Hillsborough Education Foundation. Layman, who teaches special-needs students, got $1,000 as a finalist.

Other finalists were from Stewart Middle Magnet, Lomax Elementary Magnet and Apollo Beach Elementary.

At Lowry since 2002, Sacarello received praise for her literacy programs. She coordinates an annual young authors conference with Lowry and other area schools. She also leads Lowry's storytelling program, encouraging children to develop public-speaking skills and gain self-esteem.

"She's so passionate about really inspiring them," said Julie Escobar, who nominated Sacarello after her daughter enrolled in Sacarello's class. "She just infuses them with so much joy for what they're doing. It's contagious for the kids."

Layman put into motion her son's suggestion of a club where students could help others. She started Paws for Peace last year during Lowry's summer program, and when classes resumed in August, she got the members of the school's after-care program involved.

Paws for Peace has 125 children participating. The students have raised money for Big Cat Rescue, autism and multiple sclerosis. They have sent valentines to veterans, read to elder citizens and brought gifts to nursing homes.

Elia praised Layman on Monday and quoted a nomination that said the teacher "unselfishly motivates everyone around her."

Reporter Courtney Cairns Pastor can be reached at (813) 865-1503 or

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