The Beach Kids Foundation of Fort Myers Beach bestowed its annual Golden Coconut Award for teaching excellence at the Beach Elementary School to 4th Grade teacher Lori Zamniak on Friday morning, February 8! Linda Beasley, Foundation President, hosted the ceremony that included three Foundation check presentations totaling $6,000. Joining Linda were fellow Foundation Board Members Andrew Cochrane, FMB Fire Chief Matt Love, Fran Myers, Jason Padilla and Gini Smith, along with Fort Myers Beach Mayor Tracey Gore.
“Today is a special day, with special people here,” said Beach School Principal Karen Manzi, presiding over her 1st Golden Coconut ceremony, “when we award the Golden Coconut, so enjoy.” “There may be some newbies here,” offered Linda, “so let me give you a little history. The Lee County School District honors their best teachers with the Golden Apple, and the Beach Kids Foundation does the same for our teachers. Since our school is on an island, we call ours the Golden Coconut!”
Before announcing the recipient, Linda presented Principal Manzi with a $4,000 check for the school reading program for all-grade scholarship materials; $1,000 check for Beach School teachers to split amongst themselves, in thanks for the numerous school supplies they often purchase from their own funds; and $1,000 check for the school’s “Beach Bucks” at the School’s “Shrimp Shack” Store! Each time students perform at an above-&-beyond level, they get $1 in “Beach Bucks” to buy goods or items at the “Shrimp Shack,” like pens and paper, but this year the “Hot Item” kids save up their “Beach Bucks” for is lunch with Principal Manzi!
To make the Golden Coconut presentation, Linda introduced Mayor Gore and Jason Padilla, “who are both Beach Kids!” “My name is in the cement out there,” said Mayor Gore, referencing the tradition of all graduating 5th grade classes who sign their names in a fresh cement slab for all to see. “My two kids are Beach Elementary Kids too, and many of their teachers are still your teacher today, so I know the best teachers in the world are right here!”
“I get excited every time I am here,” said Jason. “When I went to Beach School, I was really small and now I am really big, and you guys will experience that when you come back 20 years from now!” Jason then instructed the kids to pound on the floor in unison, as a Drum Roll, then announced the recipient: “Lori Zamniak!”
The Best School
“Thank you so much,” uttered the surprised Ms. Zamniak, who quickly noticed her family. “You hear me tell stories about my family all the time, and my husband Todd, son Trent, and my Mom & Dad are here, and my other son Trevor I am sure would be but he is in school. This means a lot, as the Golden Coconut comes from a vote of my coworkers. I love all you students, even if I have not had you yet, and we all work together as a family; I could not be at a better school!” In addition to the Golden Coconut Award, the Beach Kids Foundation presented Ms. Zamniak a beautiful new bicycle, then distributed cookies to the children and boxes of candy to the staff.
Following the presentation, Ms. Zamniak reflected on the Golden Coconut: “I was so surprised! I won it once before, but that was about 15 years ago, and you forget the thrill! Being honored by your peers, who you work with every day and respect so much is fantastic, because this is their respect in return. We all work so well together and know each other so well, so that makes this a wonderful honor. We are a small school where everybody knows and helps everybody else, with great teachers and staff. I truly want to say ‘thank you,’ as this is the best school! I have been here for 23 years, and do not want to teach anywhere else!”
Ms. Zamniak received her AAS in Executive Secretarial Science from Cayuga County Community College in 1987, her Bachelor of Science in Travel & Tourism from Niagara University in 1989, and her Certificate in Elementary Education from the University of South Florida in 1995. She began at Beach School in 1996, and has taught 2nd, 3rd & 4th Grade there. For many years, she was the Book Battle Team Academic Coach, including winning the prestigious All Lee County Battle of The Books in 2015. Todd is her husband of 26 years, with Trent, 21, enrolled at Florida Gulf Coast University and Trevor, 15, a sophomore at Fort Myers High School.
The Beach Kids Foundation provides scholarships for beach children, the “Spirit of the Holidays” to ensure all the kids enjoy Christmas gifts, sponsors the Easter Egg Hunt and several other activities to benefit the community’s children.
By Gary Mooney