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Emotional honor

By Staff | May 8, 2019

The best teachers from the Cape Coral Charter School System were honored at the Cape Coral Yacht Club Friday at the annual Lighthouse Awards, hosted by the Cape Coral Municipal Charter School Foundation.

The Lighthouse Awards, the local equivalent of the Golden Apple Awards, honors one teacher from each school who has had that special something that allowed them to rise a little higher than the rest.

Jen-Hope Belis, organizer for the event, said every teacher is deserving of the award (nearly 50 were nominated), but there is always one who rises to the top.

All teachers are nominated through an administrator, teacher, parent or student. The top three in each school are placed at the top and observed in their classrooms.

“We have parents and sponsors going in to see them do their magic. From there, they are scored and rated and interviewed and a final winner is determined,” Belis said. “Three years ago, we started to not let the winners know until the awards dinner. It’s nerve-wracking and beautiful at the same time.”

Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello compared teachers to coaches and that the students become part of a family, as they are with the teacher five days a week.

“Most of you spend 40 hours a week with the students. They become part of your being. You should be very proud of your accomplishments and should relish in the success of the students,” Coviello said.

The Lighthouse Award winners were:

Alicia Wallace: Christa McAuliffe Elementary School

Katrina Berge: Oasis Elementary School

Jehan Abubakr: Oasis Middle School

Barb Hess: Oasis High School

Beacon Award winner: Evelinn Cagigas, McAuliffe Elementary

It was a very emotional experience for the winners; some of them broke down as they received their awards.

Wallace, who teaches kindergarten, was brief, while Berge was teary as she thanked everyone involved in her career, particularly those who were nominated with her.

“I can’t express how honored I am to be in this room and be nominated and recognized for what we do,” Berge, a first-grade teacher, said. “When you get in my room, we are a family. We travel through time, experiment, read, do novel studies. But we do it as a family.”

Abubakr said she wished she was more prepared, but she got past the shock and the tears.

“I was asked by the yearbook staff if I wasn’t a teacher, what would I be. I was stunned. It hit me that I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” Abubakr, a math teacher, said. “I wanted to be effective and do my best. It was a journey. Every year I learned new things from the real good teachers and made them my inspiration.”

Hess, a geometry teacher, said she has her fourth-grade students again, having started at the elementary school level.

“People say a lot of things about math. My job is to teach kids they are good at math, that they can do it,” Hess said.

Cagigas won the Beacon Award as the top support staff member of the charter schools and was the only one who knew she had won.

“It is my passion to work with the kids. I wanted to create a first impression of what the school is and help people understand that school can be fun,” Cagigas said.