Booker High teacher aide named School-Related Employee of the Year for county schools

Anthony Chioccarelli Jr. honored during luncheon at Michael’s on East

Teacher aide Anthony Chioccarelli (center) celebrates being named the 2017 School-Related Employee of the Year with his wife Deirdre (left) and School Board Chair Caroline Zucker. Photo courtesy of the Sarasota County Schools

The Sarasota County School District has named a Booker High School teacher aide the School-Related Employee of the Year. The announcement that Anthony “Tony” Chioccarelli Jr. was this year’s top honoree was made on May 11 during a luncheon at Michael’s on East in Sarasota.

Chioccarelli, 62, was among the 50 nominees selected from more than 2,000 support staff members who work throughout the district’s schools and departments, a news release explains. “He will serve as a goodwill ambassador for the district until spring 2018,” the release adds.

All the nominees received awards at the luncheon.

“As with the district’s Teacher of the Year designation, many worthy support staff members vie for the title of School-Related Employee of the Year,” the release points out. All employees who are not teachers or administrators are eligible to be nominated, including teachers’ aides, clerical workers, bus drivers, food service workers, custodians and groundskeepers, the release notes.

Accepting the honor, “Chioccarelli was effusive about the influence of his wife, Deirdre,” the release continues. “I have to thank her; she’s the light of my life and the love of my life,” he told the audience. “My son tells me, ‘Dad, you’re the Bill Gates of love — you struck it rich.’ I would not be here without my wife and Dr. Shelley,” Chioccarelli added.

Rachel Shelley is the principal of Booker High School and a finalist for this year’s state Principal of the Year award.

Chioccarelli said Shelley “took a chance on a retired businessman who wanted to reinvent himself. I couldn’t be more grateful.”

For 30 years, Chioccarelli was a health care executive and consultant, the release notes. Being a teacher aide for students with learning differences — “many of whom face a number of challenges” — has given him a renewed sense of purpose in his life, the release adds.

“A lot of what we do is to help teachers motivate students,” he explained in the release. “Sometimes I feel guilty because students give me more than I give them. Those magic moments when a kid walks up to me in the hallway and shakes my hand ‘old-man style,’ are — as they say in the credit card commercials — priceless.”

“In a conversation after the ceremony, Chioccarelli did his own commercial,” the release continues: “‘Please let people know that we need more teacher aides in the classroom.’”

After learning he was the winner, Chioccarelli was handed the keys to a 2017 Toyota Corolla SE to drive for a year, courtesy of Toyota of Sarasota, the release notes.