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Lighthouse Honorees Light the Way Forward

blue lighthouse with yellow light icon for sdcoe lighthouse awards

The San Diego County Office of Education's (SDCOE) annual Lighthouse Awards are presented to people and organizations who are beacons in the educational community and that channel and lead others in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Congratulations to the honorees, who will be feted at the 2022 Equity Conference Equity is Love in Action on May 12 and 13. Visit the Lighthouse Awards website for details on the award categories.

2022 Lighthouse Award Honorees

Equity Champion | Dr. Amy Illingworth

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, Encinitas Union School District

Dr. Amy Illingworth is committed to supporting a culture and climate where students have what they need to succeed. Her work has led to the adoption of districtwide equity policies and practices through a student-centered lens. She spearheaded an equity committee, implemented a three-year plan with the help of the SDCOE Equity department, and recently led 25 professional learning sessions to engage and support every school site and district employee in equity learning. Illingworth works to ensure all educational partners are involved and informed regarding the district’s intent and progress and prioritizes equity. 

Turnaround Support Staff | Mayra Gonzalez 

District Social Worker, Escondido Union High School District  

Mayra Gonzalez provides students in acute and chronic crises the support they need to learn and grow. She is regularly called on to guide families through dark days: helping students navigate a mental health crisis, work through a death in the family, and process trauma. When working with “Ms. Mayra,” families and students feel cared for. She goes above and beyond to support students and staff by delivering food and resources to families in need. 

Turnaround Teacher | Jennifer Koller 

English Teacher, Teacher on Special Assignment, Steele Canyon High School, Grossmont Union High School District

Jennifer Koller is committed to equity curriculum and instruction. She designed and developed an innovative "a-g" approved literature and social justice class at Steele Canyon High School, where students explore equity and intersectionality through a range of texts and multiple perspectives. Her class supports students to develop a working concept of social justice, helps them view systemic injustice and social inequality through an inclusive and dynamic lens, and encourages students to develop an empathetic and well-developed understanding of the similarities and differences present in the human experience.

Turnaround School Site Leader | Dr. Cynthia Larkin

Principal, Morse High School, San Diego Unified School District

Dr. Cynthia Larkin's student-centered approach is reflected in her mantra: "We must build relationships with students." She intentionally and strategically guides her team to create an inclusive, supportive school environment where all students can succeed academically, feel cared for and supported, learn, and grow. Dr. Larkin launched a dynamic Equity Leadership Team as part of a collaborative project with SDCOE’s Equity department, and she continues to inspire her staff through engaging, cutting-edge equity learning focused on the needs of Morse’s diverse student population. She fully embraces the district’s restorative justice policy and created a committed Response-to-Intervention team focused on the specialized needs of struggling students. Dr. Larkin is dedicated to supporting a culture and climate where students have a voice, know they are loved, and are prepared to thrive. 

No Place for Hate Leader® | Clara Cho

Clara Cho has been a champion of the ADL's No Place For Hate® program at Miller Elementary in the San Diego Unified School District. Throughout last year, she created virtual opportunities for children, teachers, and parents to participate in the program. From offering lessons, to communicating with community members, to writing articles in the local periodical and communicating with parents ––  the No Place for Hate® campaign continued during challenging times. Once students were back on campus, the program was implemented fully in every classroom. The No Place for Hate® program is an integral part of the school community, and Clara ensures the highest standards. 

Community Equity Champion California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center

The California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center was approved in May 2009 and opened its doors on Nov.17, 2011. The center is the first of its kind in the state of California and focuses on serving the unique needs of American Indian students by conducting original research and preserving the cultural heritage and languages of tribal communities.
The California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center facilitates a sense of community and belonging among the Native population both on and off campus. It prepares students to give back to their tribal communities upon graduation.

Student Equity Leadership | Del Norte High School Student Equity/Anti-Racism Task Force

The Del Norte Equity/Anti-Racism student task force includes 50 students who represent the Black, White, Asian, Middle Eastern and North African, Latinx, and LGBTQIA + communities at Del Norte High School in the Poway Unified School District. Their goal is to change the culture of their school and community to show their school’s commitment to celebrating diversity and creating an equitable learning environment where all students are valued. Through diversity campaigns, student panels, and awareness videos that educate students on campus on issues marginalized groups face, they provide valuable resources to teachers. Their many accomplishments include collaborating with administration to create a see-something-say-something form that students can report to administration if they are a victim of racist or hate-related behavior or if they witness it. The students have taught staff and students a lot about inclusion, empathy, and bravery –– and they inspire others to do the same.  


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