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Lighthouse Awards

The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) is celebrating San Diego County equity champions in the community and the classroom with the Lighthouse Awards presented to honorees at the 2024 Equity Conference.

A lighthouse helps guide navigation and often provides a beacon of hope as we sail through potentially rough waters. Our challenges may be financial, personal, business, or spiritual in nature. The lighthouse metaphor speaks of safety and security in the face of adversity and challenge in a unique way.

The SDCOE Lighthouse Awards are given annually to people who are beacons in the educational community by channeling and leading others in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

This year, in recognition of the equity work being done across the country, we have added a category to recognize an equity champion outside of San Diego County.

Lighthouse Awards logo


Equity Champion

Chrishaun Green, director of expanded learning programs for the Santee School District 

As a founding member of the district’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, Chrishaun implemented several equity-centered literacy initiatives through art, history, and music. Ms. Green has also supported the development of the Black Excellence Committee at PRIDE Academy.  

Excellence in Student Support

Maria Al-Shamma, social worker and LGBTQ+ youth liaison for the Oceanside Unified School District 

Maria oversees the district's social work interns, serves on the board of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center and as a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) advisor, provides professional learning for staff, and leads statewide advocacy initiatives. She has created an environment of inquiry and accountability and guided teachers through the laws that protect youth and teachers. 

Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Katherine Banuelos, English teacher at Morse High School in San Diego Unified School District

Katherine goes above and beyond to create a classroom atmosphere that celebrates diversity and fosters inclusivity. As an integral member of Morse’s Equity Leadership Instructional Leadership team, she ensures that students encounter literature that reflects a broad array of cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. She enriches the academic experience of her students as well as cultivates an environment where every student feels welcomed, valued, seen, and loved. 

Excellence in School Site Leadership

Kelly Brown, assistant principal at Woodland Park Middle School in San Marcos Unified School District

Kelly is one of the original administrators who initiated the equity work in San Marcos. She provided opportunities for staff at the sites she has served to engage in meaningful conversations about equity, diversity, and inclusion. Kelly's student-centered work with empathy interviews, street data, and involving students in decision making began at and has led to permanent change in how San Marcos High School makes policy decisions.

No Place for Hate® Leader

Miranda Shilling, counselor at Pacific Rim Elementary in Carlsbad Unified School District

Miranda hosts various kindness initiatives to support a sense of belonging at school. Likewise, she conducts engaging monthly No Place for Hate lessons with every single classroom and highlights the learning at school assemblies.

Superintendent’s Community Equity Champion

Michelle Irwin, area superintendent of middle schools for San Diego Unified School District

Michelle is a longtime educator and champion for children. She has also been an innovative and creative leader who addresses the specific needs of Black and brown children. She has been steadfast in her efforts – even in ever-changing and challenging landscapes.

Student Equity Leadership

Angela Rico and Quibey Gonzalez-Hernandez, seniors in San Marcos Unified School District

Angela and Quibey have been part of the SMUSD Equity team since they were freshmen. They have presented their work across the state, facilitated at a district conference with more than 500 teachers, and served on the Superintendent’s Student Council. They focus on leading teachers through the importance of knowing their students' stories, changes that can occur when teachers get to know their students and how important it is to partner with parents. 


Past Honorees