2021 SilverSneakers Instructor of the Year

Congratulations, Anthony Rodriguez

Gold’s Gym Alamo Heights, San Antonio, TX

Anthony RodriguezAfter eighteen years of leading SilverSneakers® classes, Anthony Rodriguez says, “It’s the members who inspire me to be the best person for them.”  But class participants say he is their inspiration. As one noted, “Anthony has inspired me with his sense of humor and his kindness, as well as his excellent instruction and suggestions for improving individual skills.”

Anthony, described as “a consummate professional,” makes exercise fun, encourages social interaction, and always keeps participants’ physical well-being in mind.

Before Covid, he hosted monthly parties to celebrate that month’s birthdays. He calls to check on missing participants and has the class sign cards for sick classmates. They “befriend new members like a little family.” He’s knowledgeable, encouraging and sensitive to condition, age and fitness level, pushing but always within limitations. He ensures equipment is in good shape, safe and clean. “His attitude, care and concern for his students is a gift,” said a participant.

Anthony continues to go “above and beyond” for his participants. Pre-Covid, he had led three classes a week of 50 to 60 participants, inspiring them to keep exercising during the shutdown. When the gym first reopened, it limited participants to 12, so Anthony offered five classes a week. Now with 30 participants allowed, his classes are full. He’s still bringing people together, encouraging them and making them feel they can do anything if they try.

Congratulations to Anthony, our 2021 Instructor of the Year!

Congratulations to our finalists

Darlene Blackburn

Darlene Blackburn
Humana Neighborhood Center, Evergreen Park, IL

“She inspires me to live my best life.” “She shares a wealth of knowledge.” “I could not have endured a year of the pandemic without her Zoom classes and focus on wellness.” These are a few of the many positive statements SilverSneakers participants made about Darlene Blackburn. Prior to the shutdown, Darlene led yoga and other SilverSneakers classes at the Center. Whether in-person or virtually, she explains all exercises thoroughly and offers modifications if needed. Darlene teaches overall fitness, even including a “fruit and vegetable day.” One participant noted, “Having this class on my schedule has given me purpose.”

DeeDee Bosquez

Judith “Dee Dee” Bosquez
Gold’s Gym, Live Oak, TX

DeeDee Bosquez says she’s living the dream, doing what she loves – teaching SilverSneakers classes. When gyms closed last year, she continued offering classes in a park and at a pool, to help her participants stay active and connected. DeeDee got closer to participants during the pandemic, calling to check on them, encouraging them when they were afraid, urging them to keep working on strength and balance. Class participants recognize what DeeDee does for them: “This caring woman is a gift to us all and has touched the lives of many of our ‘Silver’ family.”


Deana Palmisano-Lejarza-

Deana Lejarza
Metairie Humana Center, Metairie, LA

Deanna Lejarza’s joyful personality, charisma, passion and energy are infectious. Some participants even say she’s been their lifesaver. This amazing instructor genuinely cares for her participants, always interested in individual progress, constantly adding to her routine, and using inspiring music. “Her classes are more than just exercise, they’re social events,” said one nominator. When the pandemic forced gym closures, Deanna jumped right in with Zoom classes and even added activities like crafts, a book club and games and trivia. She always greets family members who appear on screen. She’s a “Jill of all trades” who keeps everyone engaged.


Jennifer Perras

Jennifer Perras
Kroc Center, Greenville, SC

As fitness director and SilverSneakers instructor, Jennifer Parras goes above and beyond to keep her participants active and healthy. She knows their names and pays attention to their progress. “She genuinely cares, and it shows every day,” one participant noted. Another said, “Jennifer is the epitome of motivation. I can move and do things I haven’t done in years!” Positive, energetic, kind, and knowledgeable are ways others describe her. A fellow instructor calls Jennifer “incredibly enthusiastic, supportive and an amazing instructor” with “impeccable values and strong leadership.” Being a “role model” for other instructors and staff is quite the endorsement!


Dawn Wells

Dawn Wells
DWF Wellness, Covington, GA

A true inspiration. Passionate. Driven. Participants in her SilverSneakers  FLEX classes enthusiastically describe Wells as “the best of the best.” Her dedication to helping others live a healthier lifestyle always shines through in her classes. One nomination noted, “Dawn’s virtual exercise classes gradually challenged me to strive for the best in wellness no matter the circumstances or situation. This is especially striking since she and I are far apart across different time zones, and I am a blind person.” Dawn is the founder of Angel Eyes Fitness and Nutrition, established to empower and provide the Blind and Visually Impaired with specially tailored fitness and nutrition programs.