Deliver Your News to the World

HMH Announces Winners of Inaugural HMH Lighthouse Awards

In partnership with Steve Pemberton and Carmen Ortiz-McGhee, HMH celebrates 10 teachers across the country for their positive impact in their classrooms and beyond


Today, in celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, learning technology company HMH announced the winners of the inaugural HMH Lighthouse Awards, in partnership with acclaimed speaker and author of The Lighthouse Effect, Steve Pemberton and Carmen Ortiz-McGhee, Chief Operating Officer at NAIC and a “human lighthouse” featured in Pemberton’s book.

Over 500 teachers—all of whom demonstrated extraordinary work both inside and outside of the classroom—were nominated for the awards. This year’s winners have shown a commitment to going above and beyond for their students. Committed to the success of students in every part of their lives, these teachers serve as a guiding force to those around them, inspiring them to be lighthouses to others.

“As I read through the nominations, I felt as if I was brought into the classrooms of each teacher, and was in awe of their daily commitments,” said Steve Pemberton, acclaimed speaker and author of The Lighthouse Effect. “I am thrilled that Carmen and I were able to work with HMH to recognize the impact that these teachers are having on students, schools and communities.”

Students, families, colleagues, and school and district administrators nominated the 10 winners. They were all selected based on their embodiment of the key characteristics of a teacher lighthouse – someone who is humble, steady, and seeks no recognition for the work they do. This year’s winners are:

  • Eric Cavalli, Adapted Physical Education at Manor ISD, Manor, TX – In a world where our disabilities may seem to define us, Eric has made it his mission to show his students that this doesn’t have to be the case. Eric, who uses a wheelchair, never lets his disability limit him. 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.
  • Blanca Hernandez, Bilingual Kindergarten Teacher at Douglass Elementary School, San Antonio, TX – Teachers are the cornerstone of the educational system, but they also play a major role in their local communities. After the Bilingual Program at her school moved to a hub campus, Blanca 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 bring the community and culture back to Douglass with the relaunch of the Bilingual Program for Pre-K and Kindergarten students.
  • Elaine Kotler, 7th and 8th Grade Science Teacher at Henry James Memorial School, Simsbury, CT – You should never judge a book by its cover, and Elaine is the perfect example of this. On the surface she is an energetic and enthusiastic teacher, who connects with her students through compassion and humor, but each day she is in chronic pain as she suffers from major health issues, including cancer. She had 12 operations over a 3-year span, all of which she scheduled around school vacations to ensure that she was able to continue providing her students with the best educational experience.
  • Dana Mason, 7th – 12th Grade Writing Teacher at Keough Memorial Academy, Bellingham, MA – An unmotivated student is unlikely to learn much at school. Though some might simply write off the possibility of changing a student’s approach towards learning, Dana does not. Dana customizes his curriculum to be appealing to his students – from arranging curated guest speakers to piloting a Personal Interest Project program at Keough Memorial Academy, he is committed to reaching and connecting with every student in his classroom.
  • Tammy Notehelfer, Middle School Teacher at Mountain View Middle School, Bonney Lake, WA – The classroom is more than just a room, it is a space where students from different backgrounds come together to grow. 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 Tammy’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.
  • Nikki Radcliffe, K-12 Gifted Students at Racine Unified School District, Racine, WI – Students may be unaware of the extra effort and time that their teachers put towards providing them with the best opportunity to succeed. Nikki lets nothing hold her back from providing her students with opportunities to see themselves as leaders and innovators. Not only did she design 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.
  • Traci Storti, 9th – 12th Grade Spanish Teacher at Houlton Middle High School, Houlton, ME – Learning goes far beyond the lessons that students are taught in school, and sometimes the best way to learn is to experience. Traci, 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 the world language students regularly – ensuring that these students in a small, rural town have the opportunity to experience different parts of the world.
  • Orlando Trevino, SPED Transition 18+ Program at Mercedes High School, Mercedes, TX – The impact a teacher has on their students can last much longer than their time together in the classroom. Orlando 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 emotional coping skills.
  • Charles Wake, 6th Grade Science Teacher at Frazee Elementary School, Frazee, MN – Teachers are there to support their students with issues they face both inside and outside of the classroom. Three years ago, Charles guided his 3rd grade class through the tragic loss of one of their classmates. This year, he is teaching 6th 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.
  • Avery Wilmurth, 4th Grade ELA at Bristow Elementary, Bowling Green, KY – 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, Avery 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.

“I was blessed to have caring, compassionate teachers who helped me navigate very challenging times in my youth,” said Carmen Ortiz-McGhee, COO at NAIC and a “human lighthouse” featured in The Lighthouse Effect. “I was deeply moved by each teacher’s story, knowing that, because of them, their students will be inspired and empowered to live into their full potential.”

All winners will receive a visit from Steve Pemberton and Carmen Ortiz-McGhee at their school in the 2023-2024 school year. They will also receive an all-expenses paid trip to the 2023 Model Schools Conference, June 25-28, in Orlando, FL.

About HMH

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) is a learning technology company committed to delivering connected solutions that engage learners, empower educators and improve student outcomes. As a leading provider of K–12 core curriculum, supplemental and intervention solutions, and professional learning services, HMH partners with educators and school districts to uncover solutions that unlock students’ potential and extend teachers’ capabilities. HMH serves more than 50 million students and 4 million educators in 150 countries. For more information, visit

( Press Release Image: )


This news content was configured by WebWire editorial staff. Linking is permitted.

News Release Distribution and Press Release Distribution Services Provided by WebWire.