Michaela McLean (photo by Larry Oskin)
Superintendent Diane Kornegay announces the Employee of the Year

Faced with the limitations of the governor’s stay-at-home order due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, the Education Foundation of Lake County moved its annual Night of Stars event online this week with a virtual celebration of the district’s Employee of the Year and new inductees into the Alumni Hall of Fame.

Lake County Schools welcomed its fourth class of Alumni Hall of Fame inductees on Tuesday, April 14, with a video highlighting each person’s contributions and a congratulatory message from Superintendent Diane Kornegay. Then, today — Wednesday, April 15 — the Foundation went live on Facebook as Kornegay announced Lake’s School-Related Employee of the Year.

Meet the honorees:


Carey Baker

Carey Baker, Lake County property appraiser, is a Eustis High School native and 1981 Tavares High School graduate. While in high school, he joined the family business, the A.W. Peterson Gun Shop in Mount Dora, which is the oldest gun shop in the United States. He joined the Army National Guard, from which he retired in 2013 after having served over 31 years. He was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2000 and then again in 2002. In 2004, he won a special election for the 20th District seat in the Florida Senate and was subsequently reelected. He is most known for successfully running for being the first state or federal elected official to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom while simultaneously holding office.

Dr. Dan Boggus graduated from Tavares High School in 1975 and went on to earn a

Dr. Dan Boggus

medical degree from the University of South Florida. He practices family medicine with Aegis Medical Group. Dr. Boggus is considered a pillar in his community because of his over 30 years of service volunteering as the team doctor for the Tavares High School football team tending to sports injuries and generally keeping the team in good health.

Margaret Berry Emerson is a 1980 graduate of Leesburg High School. She has served Lake County Schools as an educator and a school counselor for 36

Margaret Berry Emerson

years. Throughout her career, she has received recognition for her interactive homework initiative that landed her on Good Morning America in 1997 and for her work toward increasing graduation rates which, at one time, earned Umatilla High School the highest graduation rates of all Lake County high schools. She had plans to retire in February of 2020, but instead, took a new position as counselor at Tavares High School where she currently serves.

Michaela McLean

Michaela McLean is a 2015 graduate of East Ridge High School and currently holds the title Miss Florida 2019. Using her platform, “Brave & Beautiful: Breaking Free from Behind the Screen,” she travels the state to raise awareness for the addictive misuse of social media by young women today as an escalating mental health crisis that breeds social anxiety, depression, negative body image and isolation. She has a three-pronged approach to promoting young women’s social media, in partnership with the Federal Trade Commission, Media Literacy Now and the University of Florida. It is to 1) create positive, purpose-driven media; 2) educate young women through a statewide curriculum teaching transformational strategies on establishing and maintaining healthy habits, and 3) advocate for legislation that implements female-centric programs and funding of advisory councils to facilitate meaningful conversations resulting in positive mental health and productive lifestyles.

Julia Nesheiwat

Dr. Julia Nesheiwat is a 1993 graduate of Umatilla High School and went on to receive degrees from Stetson University, Georgetown University, and then to earn her Ph.D. in 2014 from the Tokyo Institute of Technology. She is highly regarded for her work in government and in the military. Among her many accomplishments are serving as the Deputy Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage affairs, strengthening diplomatic efforts to secure the safe return of Americans held hostage overseas and was appointed as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Implementation in the Bureau of Energy Resources.

For more information on, the Lake County Schools Hall of Fame, or to view the virtual hall of fame and its existing members, please visit https://www.lake.k12.fl.us/our-district/hall-of-fame.


Serita Morgan

Serita Morgan is a Family School Liaison at Beverly Shores Elementary. It’s a role she has held for 10 years, tackling underachievement by working in partnership with families, parents and pupils to help the most disadvantaged have full access to educational opportunities. She helps families overcome barriers to learning and participating in the school environment, and she facilitates and promotes literacy and science nights out to engage families in learning activities with their students. She also has procured donations for much-needed items such as school supplies, toys, pillows, blankets, coats and uniforms, and she has visited motels where some students are living with their families to bring them food. “She goes above and beyond every day, whether it is encouraging children to do their best or keeping teachers apprised of family struggles that may impact student behavior or performance,” her nomination letter reads. “The students know she cares, the parents know she will do everything in her power to help them, and the faculty and staff depend on her.”


Alejandra Perez

In March, just before Spring Break, which was later extended and ultimately became the district’s pathway to distance learning, Alejandra Perez, an 8th grade teacher at East Ridge Middle School, was named Rookie Teacher of the Year. She has taught 8th grade U.S. History for the past three years. As a graduate of East Ridge High School, Alejandra is inspired to give back to a district that opened so many doors that she didn’t know existed. Instead of asking students to memorize facts she incorporates reading, writing and Socratic seminars. She stated that allowing the students to embrace different perspectives is the most important lesson she can teach.

“As an 8th grade Social Studies teacher, 8th Grade Team Leader and AVID Club Sponsor, Ms. Perez is known to be a true instructional teacher and leader with our staff and students alike,” said East Ridge Middle School Principal Jamie Sidoruk. “Ms. Perez’s commitment to education and teaching is highlighted by her initiative and motivation to lead and participate in all aspects of school and district business. She adapts and organizes her lessons in order to seek out new ways to challenge her students. Her students genuinely like and respect her and thrive in the positive learning environment she has taken great care to develop.  Ms. Perez has taken the lead with our social studies department on implementing reading and writing standards in her content area.  Ms. Perez is sensitive to the needs of both students and adults, demonstrates flexibility when working with others and is admired by her peers.  She demonstrates loyalty and dedication to our school, students, parents and our community.”

The district’s Volunteer of the Year will be announced online Friday, April 17.



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