TAMPA — For Rose “Rosie” Diaz, life didn’t come easy.
She came to Tampa from Cuba at 11. Although she was in sixth grade in Cuba, she was dropped to third grade in Tampa because of her limited English proficiency, her family said. Over the years, she traveled between Tampa and Cuba and eventually dropped out of school.
But she didn’t give up. She later attended night school and earned a high school diploma, which set her on a course of academic and athletic highlights in Hillsborough County.
She has been honored with numerous awards, including the Hillsborough County Outstanding Educator of the Year, Excellence in Education Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year, Tampa Hispanic Heritage Woman of the Year and the ACE of Florida Educator of the Year, which is the Hall of Fame of adult education. The Hillsborough County Volleyball Association Rose Diaz Award was named after her.
Diaz died July 21. She was 78.
“Her perseverance came from her heritage,” said her daughter, Druci Diaz. “She never lost sight of where she came from.”
“She was really a remarkable woman,” said Diaz, who is a Hillsborough County school district countywide program advisor for adult education, a position her mother once held.
After Rosie Diaz earned her high school diploma, she had a mentor who saw her potential and paid for her application fee at the University of Tampa. She was accepted and excelled on the college’s volleyball, softball, tennis and basketball teams.
She graduated from the University of Tampa with a bachelor’s degree in education and master’s degree in education.
She started her career as a physical education instructor, where she worked for Academy of the Holy Names, West Tampa Junior High School, Webb Middle School and Hillsborough High School. During that time, she coached the University of South Florida’s women’s volleyball team, which eventually was ranked ninth in the country, family members said.
She then worked as a career counselor with high school vocational education students in Hillsborough County. From 1984 to 2003, she was an administrator and assistant principal in the adult education programs at Jefferson Adult and Community School, East Bay Adult and Community School and Tampa Bay Technical Center.
She created programs to give students opportunities, including 26 satellite offices for adult education classes where students could have easier access to the classroom.
“She had a way with the students,” said her daughter, Dania Diaz Brooks. “She found a way to motivate the students to make something better of themselves. She was trying to motivate all of those students that she felt were like her.”
Rosie Diaz officially retired in 2005.
She is survived by her children, Dania Diaz Brooks, of Apollo Beach, Druci Diaz, of Wesley Chapel, and Delvis Diaz, of Dade City; six grandchildren and one great-grandchild; her siblings, Miguel Corral, of France, Christina Corral, of Mexico, and Carmen Corral de Lastra, of Mexico; and her friend and companion, LaVonne “Shawn” Roenstad.
A celebration of life service will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Academy of the Holy Names, 3319 Bayshore Blvd., Tampa.