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Cape Charter’s best feted at Lighthouse Awards

By Staff | May 8, 2017

The Cape Coral Charter School system recognized its top educators Friday.

This year’s annual Lighthouse Awards dinner at the Cape Coral Yacht Club came with a new twist.

In previous years, the winners – one from each school – were told in their classrooms. This year, three teachers from each of the four charter schools were told in their classrooms they were finalists but the winners were announced at the awards dinner.

Jen-Hope Ellis, chairperson for the Cape Coral Municipal Charter School Foundation, said the surprise was a new element.

“We wanted to make it a little more Oscar-esque. We treated the finalists for 11 weeks to something special and make the process fun for them,” Ellis said. “It was something the foundation wanted to do, but didn’t decide to do because it takes time and change and we were willing to take that on and make it happen.”

With the event taking place on Cinco de Mayo, dinner had a Mexican theme to it, with all the finalists having first dibs.

The finalists from each school were each featured in a video before the winners was announced by Eric Feichthaler.

The winners were Tiffany Chobrda, kindergarten teacher at Christa McAuliffe Elementary, Tiffany Brown, kindergarten teacher at Oasis Elementary, Dana Gibbs, eighth-grade teacher at Oasis Middle, and Nancy Oukasse, French teacher at Oasis High.

Denise Lowe of Oasis Elementary was also awarded the Beacon Award for top support staffer. She was the only one who knew she had won in advance and had a video all to herself.

“I was elated. It was an exciting day. It’s about everyone who works together in every school,” Lowe said. “It’s all the paras, the IT people, the support staff, all helping each other.”

For Brown, it was a very emotional moment, crying as she thanked everyone who made the award possible. It was her fourth time as a finalist.

“It was emotional to hear my name called. I’m just so honored to be the Lighthouse winner,” Brown said. “I’ve lost quite a bit, so I was shocked to win. Hopefully, they saw how I love my job and students.”

All the other winners also felt the joy and adulation from their fellow teachers.

“My heart is overflowing with joy. I’m so thankful. I could not work with a better group of people,” Gibbs said. “This wouldn’t have been possible without them. They and the students made me who I am.”

“The candidates who were with me are so incredibly talented, so just being a part of this has been amazing,” said Oukasse, who didn’t prepare a speech as she didn’t expect to win. “Everything we did made us enjoy the whole process.”

Chobrda said it’s about coming to school with a desire to make every one of her students succeed.

“I think my passion showed for what I do, I put my heart into everything I do every day. When people come into my classroom I hope they can see that,” Chobrda said.