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Cassidy Webb

Donna Sacco is Making Oakland Park Elementary a More Beautiful Place


Teachers are essential pillars of the community. Between underfunded schools, COVID-19 guidelines and complications, and the responsibility of educating the next generation, teachers are continuously stepping up to the plate, going above and beyond to ensure today’s youth have access to the resources they need to grow and develop.

Donna Sacco, a 3rd-grade teacher at Oakland Park Elementary, is one educator who is continually devoting her time, energy, and resources to helping students and others in the community.

It’s All About Ms. Sacco

Donna Sacco has her Master’s degree in Education and is endorsed in gifted reading and ESOL. She has been teaching since 2005, is bilingual in Spanish and English, is available for tutoring, and is even a Virtual Health and Wellness Coach.

Aside from her educational and self-improvement endeavors, Ms. Sacco is also passionate about ocean conservation. She is a level-three fish counter for the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) – a position that allows her to enjoy her love of scuba diving while also helping REEF monitor the health of local reefs.

Donna is highly devoted to helping her students thrive in their education by working closely with parents to make learning more accessible to all students. Her involvement at Oakland Park Elementary goes beyond being a teacher in the classroom. She is actively working to make the school a more beautiful place.

Ms. Sacco has recently been working on painting the Helping Hands Food Pantry at the school to supply students in need with food. The school has two other important projects: a “Book Borrowing Box”, where students can borrow books they are interested in; and a “Clothing Bin”, a sort of thrift store. “So clean out your closets and donate there, because we do get some money per pound of clothes”, says Donna.

The Reading Zen Garden Project

One special project in the works that Ms. Sacco is looking forward to is the creation of a reading or zen garden at the school. “There is one area of the school that gets basically no sun. It’s a very shaded area and it needs to be beautified, so I spoke with the principal about building a zen garden or sensory garden, so the students and teachers have an outdoor reading space to calm down, be outside in nature, and ground themselves with the earth,” Ms. Sacco explains.

The idea came about one sunny day when she and her students picked up their books, went outside, and sat under the breezeway by the school benches. Her intention was just to let everyone read outside for a little bit and enjoy the new books that were given to them by Ms. Hankerson and her business.

Ms. Sacco began taking pictures of the students. She noticed some were sitting on the ground, others on benches, and some just leaning up against the wall. She thought to herself, “We really need a place to read outside.” So, she texted some pictures to the school administration saying they need a reading gazebo and the administration gave her the green light to make it happen.

From there, the idea grew into something bigger – an entire zen garden or sensory garden where students and teachers can go to meditate, read, or simply connect with the earth.

Ms. Sacco’s Vision for the Garden

While they still have to come up with an actionable plan for the garden, Ms. Sacco has a clearly defined vision for the space. She imagines a relaxing garden area with rain chains, rocks, a sensory rake garden, wind chimes, stepping stones, and a reading gazebo with benches and plants that can thrive in the shade. “I want them [the students] to know they can enjoy an adventure anywhere – on a bus, on a train, at the beach, at the park, even in their backyard or on their front step.”

Ms. Sacco believes that with the right funding, resources, and volunteers, the garden creation can make for a great summer project that will give the kids something beautiful to see when the 2022 school year starts this fall.

To support the garden, get involved, or volunteer services, contact Donna at opezengarden@gmail.com.


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