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Robert Moton parent nets statewide honor for volunteer service

Pictured, from left, are Patricia Levroney, Supervisor of Equity and Community Outreach; Vanessa Childs, teacher, Robert Moton Elementary School; Sara Zaranski, Parent Volunteer and PIMA semifinalist; Janet Shearer, teacher, Robert Moton Elementary School; and Darryl Robbins, principal, Robert Moton Elementary School.
Pictured, from left, are Patricia Levroney, Supervisor of Equity and Community Outreach; Vanessa Childs, teacher, Robert Moton Elementary School; Sara Zaranski, Parent Volunteer and PIMA semifinalist; Janet Shearer, teacher, Robert Moton Elementary School; and Darryl Robbins, principal, Robert Moton Elementary School. (Submitted photo, HANDOUT)

A Westminster parent has gone beyond bake sales as a parent volunteer at Robert Moton Elementary.

The Maryland Department of Education has recognized Sara Zaranski as being one of 24 nominees for the eighth annual Parent Involvement Matters Awards. Zaranski and 23 other volunteers were named as semifinalists, and Andrew Niebler, of Montgomery County, was named the overall statewide winner.

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"I'm not used to being in the spotlight," Zaranski said. "It's because I'm used to holding the spotlight."

Zaranski, mother of three children, began volunteering at Robert Moton seven years ago when her oldest daughter began kindergarten. Now with a son and daughter in the fourth and second grades, respectively, Zaranski continues to donate her time to the school.

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In addition to coordinating volunteers through phone calls and emails, she leads the Teacher Appreciation Week Committee, serves on the school system's Curriculum Council and is a Parent Teacher Organization member. She also helps coordinate fundraisers, fifth-grade graduation and field trips. Zaranski is also a parent volunteer at West Middle School in Westminster where her oldest daughter is in sixth grade.

Despite all the committees, just being in the classroom to help inspire learning and to encourage kids is what helps teachers the most, Zaranski said. As a former teacher in Howard County, Zaranski knows how much parent volunteers help teachers, she said.

Fourth-grade teacher Vanessa Childs, who nominated Zaranski for the award, said in a news release from the school system that Zaranski "has excelled above and beyond the expectation of any one parent. Her love for serving our school has become contagious among other parents."

Zaranski could not do what she does, however, without the open doors and hearts of those at Robert Moton, she said. Whenever she has a new idea or something she wants to spearhead, the teachers welcome the suggestions, Zaranski said.

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"Sara's energy and excitement are key in providing a spark to jump start other members of our school community," said Principal Darryl Robbins in a school news release.

Although Zaranski rarely sees her children when she volunteers, she does get a glimpse of their school day, she said.

"Any parent gets to see that snapshot. I think that's kind of the upshot of volunteering," Zaranski said.

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