Palm Coast People: Continuing her husband’s legacy

Meet Teresa Rizzo, the new executive director of the Flagler County Education Foundation.
It’s not a position she wanted less than six months ago.
She was busy as a literacy director with the state department of education after many years in the classroom. She was happy supporting the education foundation as the wife of its executive director volunteering alongside her husband working on carrying out a mission that they both shared to improve the educational outcomes for Flagler County’s children. But after her husband, Joe Rizzo, died unexpectedly earlier in 2022, she knew it was a position she should apply to fulfill.
“I thought through all of the things becoming the executive director would mean. I thought about what it would feel like taking over, stepping into his shoes and how big and impactful those shoes were,” Teresa told the Palm Coast Magazine. “I knew that this was a labor of love.”
In the five years since he became director, Joe had taken the organization founded in 1990 from identifying a plethora of needs to be met to an organization with varied and wide-reaching programs supporting education in Flagler County with a more than $760,000 annual budget.
“Joe was the most fearless person I have ever known,” Teresa said. “He was never scared to ask. When I feel myself starting to be ‘overly cautious’ about asking for help on behalf the county’s children, I always remember he would say that the worst thing someone can tell him is no and that before he asked for the help, that was where he was anyway.”
Admittedly, Teresa said, she and Joe are very different people.
“The staff here tell me that Joe was what the organization need for the past five years to get to the level it is at. Now, they tell me it needs you to put those plans in place so that it can be sustained. It was amazing how he could just shoot from the hip and make amazing, amazing things happen. Now it is time for adding systematic plans.”
Teresa said she is a more systematic type of leader than her husband was.
“I like having a plan,” she said. “I believe the foundation needs to have a strategic plan now to continue and grow its work.”
Not that her influence hasn’t already been a big part of her husband’s work.
“Our pillow talk often was about what teachers needed in classrooms,” Teresa shared noting that while Joe served as executive director, she was the one in the trenches seeing what was happening in school. “We would share ideas and collaborate back and forth and talk about what teachers and students were really struggling with at the school level where the work is done.”
Even though their leadership styles varied, Joe and Teresa shared many things including both having a degree in education from Mars Hill University, a private faith-based college in Mars Hill, North Carolina, which is located in the greater Asheville, North Carolina, area. One of their children now attends Mars Hill playing golf for the university.
They also shared a passion to help kids. That joint passion is what Teresa said keeps her going now that she is without her partner.
“I don’t have him to bounce things off of now,” Teresa said. “But for Joe and I, kids were always our passion. We wanted to make sure we were supplying students with those fundamental things that they didn’t have before. It was so fulfilling for the two of us and I know it will continue to be that as I carry on.”
Learn more about the Flagler County Education Association online at
— Amy Armstrong