Retiree Wears a Variety of Hats as Volunteer in the Glades Community

In describing school volunteer Florencio Zavala, the words of Dr. Seuss come to mind: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Mr. Zavala, a former airline administrator, has been a volunteer at Gove Elementary and in the Glades community for over 16 years, and is always willing to wear a variety of “hats”.

His passion for special education and environmental science was nurtured through his award-winning spouse, who has been an advocate for special education and the environment for three decades. Currently, Mr. Zavala is using his expert gardening skills in Gove’s Butterfly Garden, where he has played a key role in helping staff integrate curriculum with their outdoor garden classroom.  He also uses his organizational skills to organize files and materials for Gove’s reading program.

Mr. Zavala has worked enthusiastically for 16 years to oversee registration and welcome students and teachers to the Very Special Arts (VSA) Festival, an annual event for elementary students with disabilities. Mr. Zavala also worked behind the scenes to prepare name tags and packets. He has dedicated himself to make this a day where students feel success in their art activities and learn subjects related to different cultures, customs and themes.

Never one to stop working or pitching in, Mr. Zavala was quick to put on his clerical and carpenter hats as Gove worked to organize its Response to Intervention program. With over 200 student files to keep in order and a new system needed to streamline accessibility of reading and testing materials to teachers, Mr. Zavala came to the rescue! He dedicated 3-4 days a week to keeping the filing system up to date and used his carpentry skills to build an intervention materials station for the teachers. The structures held all of the books used for weekly testing, testing protocols and answer sheets for over 20 reading levels. He made copies on a weekly basis to be sure that testing materials were restocked. This innovative system provided the interventions that many students needed to improve their reading skills.

Mr. Zavala continued to use his carpentry skills and garden mastery to assist Gove in being recognized as a Green School. He attended a summer workshop and used the information he learned to assist teachers and other volunteers in transforming an unappealing area into a beautiful Butterfly Garden Classroom. He built screened butterfly houses and a small information station to bring learning outside for the entire school. He also worked alongside students to plant flowers, as well as water and maintain the garden. He has regularly assisted teachers in educating the students about plants and butterflies. The students are ALWAYS excited to work and learn when Mr. Zavala is on campus!

Interested in volunteering in Palm Beach County schools? Contact Volunteer Coordinator Debi Elfen at or call (561) 434-8789.