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Charter schools hand out Lighthouse Awards

By Staff | Apr 26, 2016

They had known for two months they were selected as being the best of the best, and on Friday, in front of their peers, they finally got their awards.

More than 150 teachers, administrators and their loved ones came to the Lighthouse Awards dinner Friday at the Cape Coral Yacht Club, sponsored by the Cape Coral Municipal Charter School Foundation.

Eric Feichthaler, vice president of the foundation and former Cape Coral mayor, said the award symbolizes and honors the best teachers each year at the system’s four charter schools, much in the same way the Golden Apple does for Lee County.

“This shows as a foundation we are dedicated to teaching the kids in the city. We have 3,000 students today, which is relatively small, but our high school is one of the top schools nationally,” Feichthaler said. “Oasis kids are always testing higher because of great teachers and parental involvement.”

The winners were surprised in their classrooms in February with the news, and on Friday the top teachers at the four charter schools, Kathy Rivadeneira of Christa McAuliffe, Katie Chaney of Oasis Elementary, Andy McCarthy at Oasis Middle and Frank Haba at Oasis High School, were given awards, along with a non-instructional employee, Paul Pescatrice.

Also receiving awards were Distinguished Educators: Christi Llanes at Christi McAuliffe, Janet Altini, Joshua Zedd and Sara Myers at Oasis Elementary, Jamie Ebbert, Adam Nowicki and Katie O’Reilly at Oasis Middle, and Barb Hess and Karen Wolters at Oasis High.

“We are truly blessed to have this caliber of educators. I am humbled every day I talk about how awesome our school system is,” said Oasis Elementary Principal Steven Hook, who was the master of ceremonies. “No matter if they’re in the cafeteria or custodians, they are here to serve the children.”

The Lighthouse winners watched highlight movies of their accomplishments, got their awards and the opportunity to thank those who made the award possible.

All were humbled, some were emotional. Rivadeneira, a theatre teacher, was among those who was both as she talked about the long journey she took to became an educator, with her parents watching.

“The person I interviewed for this job told me I moved around a lot. I told her I hadn’t found my home yet. That was five years ago,” Rivadeneira said. “I love what I do here, who I work with and my students. I thank you for making me part of your family.”

“We don’t often see the end result from many of our students. Affirmation and appreciation means a lot,” Chaney said, who nearly walked away from teaching early in her career. “When I tell people where I work, I’m proud of it because of you.”

McCarthy talked about why he teaches. Simply, he believes in it.

“Teaching is what I was meant to do. Creating a learning experience is what I do. It should be something for the students and not the instructor. The students should be the ones going home tired, not the teacher,” McCarthy said.

Haba talked about his first year on the job, admitting he knew nothing about what he was doing, and thanked the students who he teaches daily.

The night was a celebration of what all the staff accomplished, especially the high school, which learned that day it was named one of the most challenging high schools in the nation.

“This is a night to celebrate the culmination of what started in August,” said Charter School Superintendent Nelson Stephenson. “We don’t focus on the test, we focus on the student and what it takes for him to be successful in the real world.”