Teachers earn Lighthouse Award
Monday morning began with a huge surprise for four Cape Coral Municipal Charter School Foundation teachers who learned they had won this year’s Lighthouse Awards.
Executive Director Kevin Colpoys said the Lighthouse Award, a “beacon for educational excellence,” goes to the best teacher who demonstrates the best education in each of four schools.
Peter Ndiang’ui, social studies teacher at Oasis Charter High School was the first teacher to be surprised and was left speechless in his classroom Monday morning after he was told he was the Lighthouse Award winner for the second year in a row. This is his second year of teaching at Oasis High.
“I don’t know what to say … it’s all because of you,” he said to his class. “I don’t know what I did to deserve this. Thank you all for giving me a chance to shine this way.”
Teachers can receive the award more than once, Colpoys said, because it gives them an incentive to keep striving to be the best teacher.
“Not everyone has the ability to be a lighthouse winner,” he said. “The extraordinary get the best.”
The next teacher that was surprised in his classroom was Christopher Fennell.
Although he was a little overwhelmed, the smile did not leave his face after he found out that he was this year’s winner for Oasis Charter Middle School.
“I don’t know what to say,” he said while taking the award in his hands. “Thank you guys for everything.”
Fennell said to receive the award after being at the middle school for three years is amazing and very humbling.
The 8th grade math teacher engages his students through his excitement and passion of teaching in the classroom.
Courtney DePasquale, kindergarten teacher at Oasis Charter Elementary School, yelled “Yeah” as she stood up from reading to her students after she found out that she was this year’s Lighthouse Award winner. She has taught at Oasis Elementary for six years.
She told her students that she received a special award for being a good teacher and asked them to give her some applause.
“I’m so happy, this is so special,” DePasquale told her students while she encouraged them all to cheer “Hip, hip, hurrah!”
Students at Christa McAuliffe Elementary School were preparing to play a volleyball game after learning about the sport last week, when physical education teacher Wendy Hearyman was interrupted and shocked to see members of the Cape Coral Municipal Charter School Foundation walk onto the tennis courts to announce that she was this year’s Lighthouse Award winner. She has taught at the elementary school since it opened five years ago.
Colpoys told the students that Hearyman was the “biggest, best educator here” as he offered her his congratulations.
The excitement of the award kept Hearyman smiling as she went around hugging everyone. She said she was shocked, nervous and surprised when she saw everyone walking on the tennis courts.
“She’s an extraordinary teacher,” Colpoys said. “She is so creative and unique.”
Hearyman said she became a physical education teacher because she loves sports and working with kids.
“It’s an outlet for something else to make them feel good about themselves,” she said about the students that have a harder time excelling in the classroom.
Hearyman starts off by teaching her younger students locomotive movements like walking, skipping, jumping and hopping before she introduces them into team sports as they grow older.
The inception of the Lighthouse Award began in 2009 and was awarded to four educators, one at each school — Christa McAuliffe Elementary, Oasis Elementary, Oasis Middle and Oasis High School.
On March 30, a letter was sent out to the 41 teachers who were nominated this year. They had a week to complete the application online if they wanted to be considered for the award.
A selection committee of three individuals then reviewed 27 applications and ranked them. Out of those 27 applications, the committee then selected 15 teachers who were the highest ranked and observed them in their classroom for 45 minutes to an hour. A half hour conference with the nominee was also conducted by the committee.
Board member and a member of the selection committee Pascha Donaldson said she enjoys the classroom observation because it speaks more about the teacher than the written application.
The selection process of the winners for the Lighthouse Award has always been a difficult task for Donaldson over the past three years.
“It’s always difficult because we have excellent teachers,” she said. “That is what makes our school system so unique.”
Donaldson said the award is significant because it recognizes the teachers’ excellence.
“Any profession needs recognition,” she said, because it provides a “message to the community and parents that their kids are getting a quality education in this world.”
The award, a crystal lighthouse, will be presented to four teachers on May 20 in the Pavillon at Cape Harbour. Two educators of distinction from each school will also receive recognition and a plaque during the ceremony.
The educators of distinction include Dawn Combs and Deborah Vlahakes from Christa McAuliffe Elementary School; Linda MacCallum and Tracy Hutchinson from Oasis Charter Elementary School; math teacher Crystal Hanhurst Marz and study skills teacher Elisa Collins from Oasis Charter Middle School and math teacher Barbara Jamison and English teacher Dana Christopher from Oasis Charter High School.