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Beacon of excellence

By Staff | Mar 1, 2016

The happiness and surprise on their faces told the whole story.

Four teachers from the Cape Coral Charter School System, one from each school, were surprised in their classrooms Monday by media, administration and members of the Cape Coral Charter School Foundation as they were given the annual Lighthouse Awards, the system’s way of honoring the best of the best.

Kathy Rivadeniera, Katie Chaney, Frank Haba and Andy McCarthy were this year’s winners, and will be formally honored at an awards dinner in April.

Chris Porter, president of the foundation, said the awards program started in 2009 as a way to honor outstanding teachers, much in the way the Golden Apple Awards honor Lee County teachers.

“We think it’s important to recognize those who go above and beyond the others,” Collins said. “We feel that teachers are so unrecognized that this is the way to give them the praise they deserve.”

Much like the Golden Apple, the process started early, in November. Teachers are nominated by students, parents and peers (there were 48 this year). Those who are nominated then apply to go further, which less than half of them did.

They then go through an interview and vetting process until there is one recipient from each school.

Kelli Jackson, committee chair for the awards, said it’s a time for the teachers to step into the limelight.

“The teachers put the kids in the spotlight, so it gives the teachers a chance. It’s the cherry on top.”

The journey began at Christa McAuliffe Elementary before going across town to the three Oasis schools.

Rivadeniera, who teaches drama at McAuliffe for grades K-5, was honored with the glowing statue in the cafeteria as she got her first-graders ready for a future performance.

“I’m really honored and surprised because the teachers at this school are amazing. The fact I was chosen over them is pretty incredible,” Rivadeniera said. “The things I do get to be showcased more than other teachers. I put on big productions so the kids can really shine.”

Jacque Collins, McAuliffe principal, said Rivadeniera’s commitment is what got her the award.

“She puts in a lot of extra time to her job. She puts on big performances. She’s a very dedicated individual,” Collins said. “All our teachers are valuable tools in education and it’s nice we recognize them.”

Chaney, who teaches fifth-grade intervention at Oasis Elementary, said she was honored to be chosen to represent the charter schools.

“It’s a small step in recognizing what all the teachers at Oasis do. We all work hard and it feels good to be appreciated,” Chaney said. ‘It means a lot to me.

Haba, who teaches physical education at Oasis High School and whose wife won the award last year, was ecstatic.

“I’m shocked and surprised. Me and my wife are even now,” Haba said. “I guess someone believed in me and thought I did a good job. I try to do the best I can.”

McCarthy, who teaches U.S. History for sixth through eighth grade at Oasis Middle School, said the system is what makes the students great.

“They appreciate their teachers and make a lot of effort to acknowledge them. It’s a great system where students and parents can show appreciation for them,” McCarthy said.