Meet the Winners of the Inaugural HMH Lighthouse Awards

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Lighthouse Awards Announcement Meet Our HMH Lighthouses Hero

Since the publication of The Lighthouse Effect, we have had the opportunity to talk to thousands of people about who has most impacted their lives. It did not take too long to see that on nearly everyone’s list is a teacher. From elementary school teachers to college professors, teachers occupy a rare space in our lives, growing in significance and stature as our own life journeys unfold.

Given their impact, it’s important for us to acknowledge the impact teachers have on individuals, schools, and entire communities. This recognition has never been needed more as the last few years have brought enormous pressure to their profession. In acknowledging teachers, we are also affirming something important about our common humanity and our common connections. Doing so does not require extensive effort. In fact, we can all do our part—and we have!

The inaugural HMH Lighthouse Awards brought forward the names of so many amazing and dedicated teachers who, according to their nominators, are serving as lighthouses every single day. Their stories and lives will inspire you.

Meet the 10 Winners
WF1777752 Shaped 2023 Blog Post Lighthouse Awards Announcement Eric Cavalli

Adapted physical education teacher Eric Cavalli, who uses a wheelchair, has made it his mission to show his students that our disabilities don’t have to define us. His approach has helped his students remove any limitations that may have been holding them back from reaching their potential. He’s encouraged more students to participate in the Special Olympics program, with participation tripling this year.

WF1777752 Shaped 2023 Blog Post Lighthouse Awards Announcement Blanca Hernandez

After the bilingual program at her school moved to a hub campus, bilingual kindergarten teacher Blanca Hernandez worked tirelessly to bring the program back to Douglass Elementary, where many students come from diverse backgrounds and greatly benefit from the program. Through countless meetings with campus and district staff, and families, she was able to relaunch the program for Pre-K and K students.

WF1777752 Shaped 2023 Blog Post Lighthouse Awards Announcement Elaine Kotler

Seventh and eighth-grade science teacher Elaine Kotler is the perfect example of never judging a book by its cover. On the surface, she is an energetic teacher, who connects with her students through compassion and humor, but she is in chronic pain each day as she is living with major health issues, including cancer. She had 12 operations over a three-year span, all of which she scheduled around school vacations to ensure that she could continue providing her students with the best educational experience.

WF1777752 Shaped 2023 Blog Post Lighthouse Awards Announcement Dana Mason

Seventh- through twelfth-grade writing teacher Dana Mason doesn’t write off the possibility of changing a student’s approach toward learning; he is committed to reaching every student in his classroom. Dana customizes his curriculum to appeal to all his students—from arranging curated guest speakers to piloting a Personal Interest Project program at Keough Memorial Academy.

WF1777752 Shaped 2023 Blog Post Lighthouse Awards Announcement Tammy Notehelfer

Following the war in Ukraine, the Sumner-Bonney Lake School District has seen an influx of Ukrainian students, many of whom have been placed in middle school teacher Tammy Notehelfer’s class. She has formed positive connections with each of her students by building unique relationships and creating a safe classroom culture, supporting and helping to guide her students through these uncertain times.

WF1777752 Shaped 2023 Blog Post Lighthouse Awards Announcement Nikki Radcliffe

Nikki Radcliffe, a teacher for K–12 gifted students, lets nothing hold her back from providing her students with opportunities to see themselves as leaders and innovators. Not only has she designed a program for advanced third graders to attend a hands-on workshop series, but she even transports students to the events in the school van.

WF1777752 Shaped 2023 Blog Post Lighthouse Awards Announcement Traci Storti

Ninth- through twelfth-grade Spanish teacher Traci Storti, the first candidate in her school district to work toward National Board Certification, brings excellence every day to her Spanish classes and works relentlessly to expose her students to the world around them. Traci organizes trips abroad for her world language students regularly—ensuring that these students in a rural town can experience different parts of the world.

WF1777752 Shaped 2023 Blog Post Lighthouse Awards Announcement Orlando Trevino

SPED Transition 18+ Program teacher Orlando Trevino has been instrumental in helping students with special needs gain independence and prepare for a life outside of high school, playing a significant role in developing the SPED Transition 18+ Program. He ensures that students who have met graduation requirements but need more opportunities to gain life skills have the chance to do so by teaching them job readiness, activities of daily living, and social and emotional coping skills.

WF1777752 Shaped 2023 Blog Post Lighthouse Awards Announcement Charles Wake

Three years ago, science teacher Charles Wake guided his third-grade class through the tragic loss of one of their classmates. This year, he is teaching sixth grade and supporting those same children—uplifting and encouraging them through the good times and the bad—as they continue to grieve the loss of their former classmate.

WF1777752 Shaped 2023 Blog Post Lighthouse Awards Announcement Avery Wilmurth

Being a first-year teacher is challenging, and it can be even more so when many of your students are reading below grade level. However, fourth-grade ELA teacher Avery Wilmurth doesn’t define her students by their past and instead focuses on their potential, creating a classroom environment that allows students to safely try, fail, and redo, which resulted in her students showing some of the best improvement in the district this year.


Read more about what inspired Steve Pemberton, author of The Lighthouse Effect, and Carmen Ortiz-McGhee, chief operating officer at NAIC, to create the inaugural Lighthouse Awards in partnership with HMH.

Join more than 5,000 educators in 100+ sessions at the 31st Annual Model Schools Conference in Orlando, Florida, from June 25–28, 2023, where you can learn more about school improvement plans.

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