Three students honored as '207's Best' for February

  • From left, Zarak Tariq from Maine East, Izabella (Skye) Thompson from Maine West and Paolo Vacala from Maine South were named "207's Best" students for February.

    From left, Zarak Tariq from Maine East, Izabella (Skye) Thompson from Maine West and Paolo Vacala from Maine South were named "207's Best" students for February. Courtesy of District 207

By Hannah Pisani
Communications Department Intern, District 207
Posted2/24/2020 11:06 AM

The Maine District 207 Board of Education named three students as "207's Best" for February.

Zarak Tariq from Maine East was honored for Technology Innovation. Izabella (Skye) Thompson from Maine West was honored for Improved Performance. Paolo Vacala from Maine South was honored for Technology Innovation.


Tariq received this recognition because his course work relating to technology has been extensive. It includes AP Computer Science Principles, Engineering and Design Capstone, Cybersecurity, Virtual Enterprises International, PLTW Civil Engineering and Architecture Accelerated, PLTW Computer Integrated Manufacturing Accelerated, Network +, PLTW Engineering and Design, Computer Programming, Robotics and multiple independent study courses in Applied Technology and Business.

In addition to his CTE courses, Tariq has been active in several clubs, such as Skills USA, Graphic Arts Club and serves as the officer of communications for Robotics.

Tariq even uses his knowledge to help teachers. He has implemented and written directions for new technologies (Sphero, micro bits, and Raspberry Pi's) so teachers can have a better understanding of where students are struggling.

In addition, Tariq has made connections through several courses offered at school by helping to create a programming curriculum that teaches students javascript and block-based coding.

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"In all my classes, he has been willing to take on any issue and work to find a solution for all his classmates," says CTE teacher Wil Greenwald.

"Every year during his free time, he comes to me and asks how he can help. He has helped us develop projects for Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Robotics and our Cyber/Linux classes. He is truly an educational asset inside and outside of our classes."

Tariq is leading a robotics program in Engineering and Design Capstone to compete this April in a Robotics Search Rescue conducted by SkillsUSA. On top of that, he has interned with Alvee Dass Technologies, where he does 3-D modeling, printing and UI design using Python.

Tariq plans to continue his work with technology by studying Software Engineering at Loyola University.

Thompson was honored as one of 207's Best for Improved Performance. After working through the grief that came after a death in the family, she says, "I didn't put any effort into myself. I didn't care. I didn't believe in myself. I realized I have to push through to get somewhere in life."


Thompson found trust and support from her grandmother, dad, older brother and teachers. These people helped her work through a time of pain and suffering. One of the people Thompson found comfort in was teacher Carrie Barone, who teaches a Preschool Practicum class.

"Her initiative, responsibility and compassion for others is remarkable," says Barone.

"I am so proud of her work with the preschool children and her peers this year. She is so deserving of this award. She is humble, kind, compassionate and has shown great strength and determination to reach her goals."

Vacala was honored for Technology Innovation. He always knew he wanted to pursue art, but wasn't sure in what capacity. At Maine South, he discovered graphic design, which combines art and technology.

He has taken the entire graphic design curriculum, from Intro to Graphic Arts to AP 2D Design. Vacala is the president of the Graphics Arts club and an intern at the digital marketing company American Eagle, where he is learning web design and modern marketing techniques.

In addition, he is working on graphics for the Ed Foundation benefit. Vacala has received several awards for excellence of innovation in technology and graphic design.

"Paolo Vacala is an outstanding senior at Maine South, and one of 207's Best," says Advanced Graphics teacher Sheryl Peterson.

"He has been a technology leader ever since his freshman year. Paolo leads by example and has excelled in many areas in and out of high school. It has been an honor and a pleasure to have Paolo in class for four years.

"His kind and generous leadership style has made everyone around him better for it. I wish him the very best in all his future endeavors."

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