Four exemplary teachers were the first in the City of Cape Coral Charter School System to earn Lighthouse Awards this week.
The award was created by the Municipal Charter School Foundation to recognize teachers in the charter system who are excluded from the Golden Apple program.
One teacher from each of the city-run charter schools was given the Lighthouse Award. Winners were Donna Artrip from Christa McAuliffe Elementary; Jaime Rothring from Oasis Charter Elementary; Amy Picciolo from Oasis Charter Middle and David Christopher from Oasis Charter High.
Seven other teachers received Distinguished Educator Awards including Joy Bonnaig and Susan Coward from Christa McAuliffe Elementary; Rhonda Gamboa and Barbara Hess from Oasis Charter Elementary; Evelyn Williams and John Omundsen from Oasis Charter Middle and Rae Vanderheyden from Oasis Charter High.
Similar to the Golden Apple Recognition Program, teachers applying for a Lighthouse Award have to be nominated by a student, parent or fellow teacher, fill out an application and undergo a selections process including one observation. Each teacher also included an interesting lesson in their application that set their class apart from others in the school.
Winners receive a Waterford crystal Lighthouse — modeled after the Cape Hatteras lighthouse — with a lighted stand, meant to symbolize a “Beacon of Excellence.”
Picciolo, or “Mrs. Pickles” as her students fondly call her, said she was shocked when, like the other winners, she was visited by Municipal Charter School Foundation Executive Director Kevin Colpoys, President of the Foundation Scott Bologna and her principal to tell her she won.
“I had no idea, it felt like I was being ambushed by Publisher’s Clearinghouse,” she said. “I was honored to be nominated in the first place, but I never imagined I would win.”
She has been teaching since 1992 and moved from Brooklyn, NY, to Florida after a diagnosis of thyroid cancer.
“I knew my calling was middle school, what I do is writing, that is my forte,” said Picciolo.
The special lesson she included in her application was for students to learn how to elaborate in writing. She had them take off and describe the appearance of their shoes. Later she mixed all of the shoes together in a pile and identified each student’s shoe according to their writing.
Christopher, a social studies teacher and winner for Oasis High, said he was surprised to win out of all the extraordinary teachers in the charter system.
“There are lots of great teachers in this school and school system,” said Christopher. “I always said it is the teaching that matters — to be chosen from a group that good was an honor.”
In his classroom, Christopher said he likes to do hands-on simulations to bring real life to his students.
For his application to the selection committee, Christopher submitted a lesson on population. He had the students use multi-colored M&M candies to represent population and demographics. They added and subtracted the candies to show how population changes, he said.
“And they got to eat them in the end,” he added.
Rothring, a third-grade teacher at Oasis Elementary, just finished her third year in the charter system. She said the selections process wasn’t too difficult to undergo.
“It wasn’t tough, it was harder on the judges than us,” she said. “I was very surprised to win. It was amazing.”
Rothring submitted a lesson on social classes in Ancient Rome. For one day students in her class were made into patricians, or the wealthy class, while others were made plebeians, or the peasant class. The plebeian students spent the day receiving commands from the patricians, and afterwards the class discussed what life would’ve been like in this type of society.
“It is a way to connect them to what life was like in Ancient Rome,” said Rothring.
Artrip, a fifth grade teacher from Christa McAuliffe Elementary, was also shocked that she won the award. She has been teaching for eight years, part of those years at the Lee County School District and the other part in the state of Michigan.
“We have so many good teachers and to be picked as one of the final Lighthouse Award recipients is surprising and a real honor,” said Artrip.
Math and reading are her favorite subjects. She teaches remedial math to low-level students and reading to the entire fifth grade. Artrip often uses games and real-life lessons to motivate her students. Currently she has NHL math centers in her classroom.
“To motivate them is hard to begin with, so I use a lot of games,” she said. “Sports is something in real life and ties into what they are doing.
The Lighthouse Awards are a time for teachers in the city charter system to shine.
On May 28 the Municipal Charter School Foundation will host an award ceremony for all of the winners at Cape Harbour. Tickets for the ceremony are $25 and are available through the foundation at www.capecharterfoundation.org.