LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Elaine Saef

Position: Principal
School: Panther Run Elementary School
School District: Broward County Public Schools
City, State: Pembroke Pines, FL

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Ms. Saef was nominated by a group of parents, volunteers, and PTA board members who wished to remain anonymous. They have known her for numerous years and believe it is a true honor and delight to work with her. From her experiences, they learn better ways to help and advocate for students, especially our special needs students

Ms. Saef is one of the most hands-on, actively involved, supportive, and professional school administrators one could ever meet. She truly cares about and makes a difference in the lives of children. Additionally, she is such a great example to her students and staff, bringing great energy to school and exhibiting positive and true leadership skills and moral values.

Furthermore, it is impressive to see her inspire and promote a culture of “Paying It Forward” and "Who I am makes a difference” for both standard curriculum and special needs students. She treats all students as equals and has created a fully inclusive educational environment.  She is a great role model for other principals to learn from and exercise the proper methods of inclusion and means of support.

Many of the nominators' children have Autism and were welcomed into school from day one in kindergarten by Ms. Saef and her staff. From that day, she has supported them. She makes sure they are provided with the best education and afforded the same opportunities as any other child. Because of this, the children’s self confidence soared. They are more verbal and better at academics than ever before.

Ms. Saef also believes in inclusion. She really believes in it. One of her nominators' sons is included in every activity, from field trips and school wide events, to lunch and specials. And, not only was he included, but the whole family has been embraced as well. 

"There has not been a time when Ms. Saef has not come over to see how we were doing when visiting or volunteering at her school," the nominators said.  "And, it reassures us every time. Every. Single. Time. This is why Panther Run Elementary received a Best Practice Award by the district and the Little Red Schoolhouse Award by the Florida Association of School Administrators (FASA) for their "Pay It Forward!" & "Who I Am Makes A Difference!" culture and program."

As principal of one of the largest specialized elementary school programs for Autism in Broward County, Ms. Saef watches over many children of highly regarded families in this community who are on the spectrum. Because of the love and care these children receive, along with the enormous academic and social advancements they make into General Education, most parents' biggest concern is what to do with their children once they transition to middle school. Ms. Saef and her devoted staff can be seen on any given weekend supporting various events around town, such as the Dan Marino Walkabout Autism, Walk Now for Autism Speaks, The Krista-Marie Touch of Love Charity 5K, Autism Puzzle Pins, Buddy Walk for Down syndrome, ALS, Muscular Dystrophy (MDA), American Heart Association, and many more.

The nominators recalled the words of another parent: "A memorial tree was planted (at PRE) to remind our community of our children's strength and beauty. May we protect and embrace them every day. Thank you to Ms. Saef and your entire staff. May you continue to love and protect all the children."

It makes her nominators extremely happy to see her positive attitude and kindness be displayed among her students, parents and staff.

"I have immense respect for Ms. Saef and consider my children and I lucky to be part of the Panther Run Elementary family. We hope she continues to lead this great school for years to come," one of the nominators said. "We have no qualms about giving Ms. Saef the highest recommendation. She is exactly that to us, all day, every day, every year!"

Ms. Saef has also won multiple accolades including the Broward schools 2017  Principal of the Year ‘Caliber Award.’ and the BABSE’s Excellence in Educational Leadership Award. She is absolutely a LifeChanger in thousands of students' and adults' lives!

Comments (20)

Jacky Tomlinson Posted over a year ago

Wow! Ms.Saef looks like the lady in charge and nice too... a tough balance sometimes! Reading the comments I can see why she is so well respected! Obviously the world is blessed to have Ms. Saef in education!

Roberta Posted over a year ago

Ms. Saef was just named a Broward Education Foundation Hall of Fame Inductee. She is Broward's Principal of the Year and also one the Excellence inEducational Leadership BABASE Award tis year! All are very well deserved. She has touched and positively impacted thousands of lives - both students, parents and staff!!! Her vision, compassion and Pay It Forward - Who I Am Makes A Difference attitude is evident in all she does. She walks the walk and talks the talk - she is a true example of a LifeChanger!!!! So proud of you and to know you Ms. Saef!

Robert Posted over a year ago

Impact - that's what I think of when I see Ms. Saef. Her impact on any who come in contact with her is ALWAYS positive! I had the good fortune to meet Ms. Saef as as a child in her school. She taught me from day one to believe! Believe in myself and in others. She taught me to try, to never give up and most of all to care for all!! Ms. Saef shaped my future from day one in the most amazing way. She did this simply - by caring about me. She learned my name, my interests and made sure to check on me. She was my Assistant Principal for many years and I have always held her to high esteem. I was lucky enough to have my own children have her as their Principal. She recognized me the moment I walked in to register my children and called me by name. She is amazing! My life was changed for the better by her and so is my child's. I will Pay It Forward Ms. Saef and Make a Difference. I promise! PIF-WIAMAD!!!

Nancy Rosario Posted over a year ago

For the last 5 years, it has been a pleasure to be part of the Panther Run family and to have Ms. Saef as my principal. Ms. Saef is a dedicated role model, committed to the school as well as to the community of Pembroke Pines. She welcomes students, parents, and community liaisons to participate in school wide activities and to volunteer their time and effort in our students. She honestly cares about her students and her staff as a member of her family. She truly deserves the prestigious Lifechanger of the Year Award, for her caring and dedication toward the Panther Run family.

Sandra Feldman Posted over a year ago

I am so proud to be a part of PRE and Ms. Saef is a phenomenal principal! PRE is not our zoned school and were reassigned to PRE and I'm so happy we were accepted for the reassignment. Ms. Saef is very involved with the school and knows all her students and parents by name - wow, that is a lot to remember. Her dedication for the school, factuality and students shines through with all her hard work and attention to detail. She makes herself available to all when she is needed because she truly cares about her job. I am honored my children attend PRE!

Michelle Mejido Posted over a year ago

I have had the pleasure of working with Ms.Saef for 17 years. I started as a substitute teacher, then hired as a Teacher Assistant, and with her unwavering confidence and support, I completed the classes necessary to become a teacher. Ms. Saef has truly been an impact on my career, and a mentor in many ways. Her commitment, compassion, and dedication to make a difference in our school and community shows everyday. Going on my fourth year of teaching, I cannot say enough about how passionate Ms Saef is about her school, students, teachers, parents, and community. Teaching children with special needs/ Autism, Ms. Saef makes sure we have all necessary supplies, materials and support needed to give our students the opportunity to succeed. She has a Hugh Heart, cares deeply and is a fun loving, energetic principal, that the children enjoy seeing each day, including her staff. She always has a smile on her face and a positive comment to share. I am so lucky to be a part of her Panther Run Family. She is an Amazing person and most deserving to win the prestigious Lifechanger of the Year Award. Thank You Ms. Saef for being YOU!!

Diane Gabano Posted over a year ago

I have been teaching for 40 years... during that time I have had several principals..... none compare to Ms. Saef. Ms. Saef has been an inspiration to me personally. I have become a better educator due to her commitment, care and concern. I come to school each morning knowing that I work at the best school in Broward County because of her! Thank you, Ms. Saef for everything you do for all of us!

Amy Sakowitz Posted over a year ago

I have been lucky enough to work for Elaine Saef for 18 years and during that time I have watched her grow from an energetic, hands-on assistant principal to a passionate principal who demands the same passion of her teachers. One thing that has not changed, however, is her faith and pride in her teachers. She is always open to new and innovative teaching methods in our classrooms. She allows us the autonomy to teach children the way we feel they should be taught, based on their personalities and learning abilities. She has never said no to a new idea, a chance to try a new program, or an opportunity to participate in a professional development activity to enhance our teaching, no matter the cost or training involved. Ms. Saef understands that we know our children well enough to choose the programs that fit them. In the 18 years that I have worked for her, I have seen growth in myself as a teacher, as well. I take risks in my classroom that allow my students to learn. This risk taking carries over to my students as they feel safe. She drives me to go into my classroom everyday and prove to myself that I am the best teacher I can be.

Dr. Mary Ellen Bafumo Posted over a year ago

I'm delighted with Elaine's nomination. She is an outstanding principal and a person of great integrity, courage and compassion. Elaine is genuinely dedicated to her work and to the children it impacts. She gives of her time and expertise unstintingly in her role as principal. She's earned every accolade she has acquired and continues her own quest for lifelong learning. She is, indeed, someone who changes lives for the better and she does it on a daily basis.

Carmen de Leon Posted over a year ago

my children have been at Panther Run for only one year but since day one Ms Saef has made my whole family feel welcomed. She is always present at every school activity, always with a smile and cheerful. It is amazing to see how the children are drawn to her. They respect her and feel she is there to take care of them.She is an amazing human being. My only regret is that Panther Run does not go up to eighth grade.

Ingrid Diaz Posted over a year ago

I am not only a former parent, I am also a former PTA board member, so I have seen first hand what an amazing human being she is. My son is 23 yrs old and still to this day remembers spending lunch time for a whole week in her office while in Kindergarten because of being a class clown, while remembering fondly how she treated him with such respect. As he moved on to middle school and high school, as an active PTA board member I would run into her at county school events and she would always mentioned how proud she was of the young adult he was becoming; remembering (vividly, might I add) as well, that week she had spent with him back when he was in Kindergarten. Sharing those memories with me, while bursting in pride on how far he'd gone. When we moved here, he did not speak much English, and it was a challenge as well due to him being hard of hearing; so he did not speak much. But her actions spoke louder than words. When he lost all of his hearing, her support to him and my family was a major factor in overcoming such a hurdle. And this is nothing compared to what I have witnessed as a PTA board member. Her compassion towards all her "kids", her staff, as well as the parents is beyond belief. If she can help somehow, someway, she will make sure to lend her hand to make anything possible. During my son's school years, I came across many school principals, working directly with some of them; and none of them displayed such a high level of integrity, compassion, leadership that she did, day after day. We were both extremely excited when she recently won the Principal of the Year award. Finally, she had been recognized for having such an impact, not only on her "kids" and staff, but on parents like myself. She has a huge heart, one that she puts out, wholeheartedly, to make sure she leaves her footprints in all our lives and hearts; so we can all pay it forward.

Carol Gittens Posted over a year ago

Ms. Saef was the first person I met when I went to register my daughter for Kindergarten four years ago. She was so welcoming and made me feel so at ease since I was nervous for my little girl. However, we have been truly blessed with amazing, compassionate, loving, caring and dedicated teachers and staff. It all starts with Ms. Saef greeting all the kids in the morning as they enter the halls and knowing their names. Ms. Saef embodies all that a true leader should be which is powerful yet fair, positive, fiercely protective of all "her" kids, readily available and an inspiration to others. It's my privilege and honor to be a parent and PTA board member at the best school in all of Broward and with the Principal of the Year. Thank you for everything that you do for our kids and you deserve all the accolades in the world! My whole family loves you!

Liz Docteroff Posted over a year ago

Your actions as a leader has inspired me as a teacher and our students to want to do more, be more and learn more. I'm am proud to be teaching at Panther Run and to be a part of your team! Thank you for all that you do! Liz Docteroff

Nalia Jauregui Posted over a year ago

We are so proud of her; she's a very hardworking person , and that's why she's the best School Principal ever!!!

Nicole Roulhac Posted over a year ago

Ms. Saef's actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, she is a great leader who not only has made an impact on our school, but our community. She is well deserving of this award.

Shannon Michael Chacona Posted over a year ago

There is no one who greater exemplifies the qualities of a leader and is more deserving of this honor. In my nineteen years of experience in education, I have worked with great educational leaders, but none have inspired me like Ms. Saef. This inspiration stems from the many wonderful leadership qualities that make Ms. Saef an outstanding Principal. Ms. Saef is a motivational leader who promotes the success of all students by nurturing a school culture conducive to student learning and staff professional growth. This success is fostered and sustained by the award winning PIF-WIAMAD (“Pay It Forward”-“Who I Am Makes A Difference”) culture created by Ms. Saef. PIF-WIAMAD is a motivational culture used to inspire students, staff, parents & community members. PIF-WIAMAD consists of two philosophies, “Pay It Forward!” & “Who I Am Makes A Difference!” This culture has become the foundation for everything we do at Panther Run Elementary, with Ms. Saef leading PIF-WIAMAD by her own example. PIF-WIAMAD has been awarded the Little Red Schoolhouse Award from the Florida Association of School Administrators and the District Best Practice Award from the Broward County School Board. Ms. Saef is an instructional leader who promotes a positive learning environment by providing an effective instructional program that applies best practices to student learning. Ms. Saef provides instructional leadership by monitoring and analyzing the implementation of research-based strategies into the curriculum. Ms. Saef believes every child can and will learn. Her hands-on approach and personal dedication has allowed Panther Run Elementary School to earn the highest total score in school history on the State Accountability Program and achieve an A-Rating from 2004-2013, a B-Rating in 2014, and back to an A-Rating in 2014-2016. Under her leadership, Panther Run has also been awarded the Five Star School Award & Golden School Award from 2004-2009. Ms. Saef is a welcoming leader. She has an open door policy that enables students, staff, parents and the community to share concerns or suggestions in a comfortable environment. Ms. Saef shows each day that she truly cares about the staff, students and families of Panther Run. She is always seen greeting staff, students and parents each morning as they enter the school building and loading students into cars at dismissal. She easily makes people feel comfortable and welcome on campus, encouraging parents, family members & the community to volunteer and be a part of our children’s education. Ms. Saef is a creative leader. From kissing a horse to get students excited about reading, to allowing a teacher to slime her following a fundraiser challenge, Ms. Saef creatively gets our Panther Run family to have fun while promoting a love for learning and a dedication to community service. Ms. Saef has also coordinated school efforts and teams to successfully raise funds for Autism, Muscular Dystrophy and the American Heart Association. Her creativity is also seen in our school website,, which was designed by Ms. Saef and provides students with a safe place to learn on-line. The website also provides parents and community members with important information about the Panther Run community. Ms. Saef has been honored with multiple accolades over her career including Broward County School's Principal of the Year for the 2017-18 school year and also the BABSE Excellence in Educational Leadership Award. She is an amazing leader who touches so many lives and I truly believe there isn’t anyone more deserving to win the prestigious Lifechanger of the Year Award than Ms. Elaine Saef. Sincerely, Shannon Michael Chacona, Ph.D. Assistant Principal, Panther Run Elementary School

Maria Rossi Posted over a year ago

Thank you Ms. Saef for being a positive role model for all. You truly change and impact the life of all the kids at Panther Run. You are an awesome person and principal.

Mahalia Henry Posted over a year ago

Thank you Ms. Saef for being a great example of what a superior leader embodies. You are truly a life changer!

Kassie Mikk Posted over a year ago

Ms. Saef is truly a lighthouse of all things positive. She is an amazing person, professionally and personally. I enjoy coming to work everyday and feel confident that I always have her full support. Ms. Saef has an positive impact on every person that is lucky enough to interact with her. She is truly a life changer. As an employee and parent, I can SAEFLY say that my life has changed for the better since meeting her.

Gaby Rodriguez Posted over a year ago

Ms. Saef, There is no one more deserving of this award than you. You truly embody every aspect of a life changer. Every child and adult who has the privilege of knowing you, knows what an impact you make in others lives. You are an incredible and inspiring leader! Thank you for changing my life, and giving me the privilege of getting to work at my alma mater. Sincerely, Gaby Rodriguez