Teachers, Principals, Counselors, and Coaches recognized by the National Society of High School Scholars for excellence in and out of the classroom

ATLANTA, GA, December 16, 2020 – 2020 has been a year of challenges for countless people, and none more so than our country’s educators. Just like their students, they’ve been stretched to the limit in order to provide excellence in education, coaching, counseling, and productive instruction to students who are, in many cases, frustrated, anxious, de-motivated, and even angry and depressed. Each year, the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), the premier international honors and scholarship program, reviews stellar applications in each category, and has just announced its 20 Claes Nobel Educators of the Year Award 2020 recipients. 

These awards are presented to exemplary educators who have demonstrated an outstanding and noteworthy commitment to preparing their students for success inside and outside of the classroom. They are role models who consistently demonstrate stellar leadership. According to Claes Nobel, grand nephew of Alfred Nobel, the program embraces his family’s tradition of recognizing world class minds and supports NSHSS’ vision to help students grow and have a positive impact on the global community.

“Each year it is difficult to select our winners out of hundreds of compelling applications. This year’s candidates raised the bar to a new level we never could have imagined. These 20 individuals represent the finest in education, coaching, counseling, and support services and, each in their own way, have contributed to motivation, role modeling, and achievement,” said NSHSS Co-founder, James Lewis. “We are honored to underscore their contributions.”

To be eligible for Educators of the Year, candidates must be an NSHSS Educator of Distinction and must currently be working within a public or private high school in the United States or abroad. NSHSS selects one $5,000 award winner and several $1,000 finalists in each of five categories: Principal of the Year, Counselor of the Year, Teacher of the Year, Band/Music Leader of the Year, and Coach of the Year.

The recipients of the 2020 Educators of the Year Award are:

NSHSS Teacher of the Year: Dr. Chikezie Madu

White Station High School – Memphis, TN

Dr. Chikezie Madu began teaching in Nigeria and currently teaches AP/DE Science classes at White Station High. Dr. Madu was honored as the 2018/2019 Outstanding Biology Teacher Award (OBTA) winner in the state of Tennessee and a 2016 State winner of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science.

Teacher of the Year Finalist: Katherine Amos

Sierra High School – San Diego, CA

Katherine Amos is an English teacher at Sierra High School in San Diego. She is passionate about empowering her students to develop their voices, so that they will be effective thinkers and communicators who will make the world a better place.

Teacher of the Year Finalist: David Case

Hood River Valley High School – Hood River, OR

David Case has taught at Hood River Valley High School for 27 years. He has taught everything from Driver Ed to freshman English and AP U.S. History, while coaching several sports. He also served as an advisor to the school paper and the Gender and Sexuality Alliance.

Teacher of the Year Finalist: Tobie Lambert

Mississippi School of the Arts – Brookhaven, MS

Tobie Lambert has more than15 years of teaching experience at the secondary and collegiate levels. She enjoys her role as the English instructor at Mississippi School of the Arts, a residential high school in Brookhaven, MS for juniors and seniors gifted in the arts.

Teacher of the Year Finalist: Kristie Letter

Peak to Peak Charter School – Lafayette, CO

Kristie Betts Letter pioneered an Innovation department at Peak to Peak charter school in Lafayette, CO. She's the author of the short story collection, Fire in the Hole, and has won teaching awards including the BVSD Impact Award, the Jared Polis Teaching Award, and the Conrad Innovation Teacher of the Year Award.

Teacher of the Year Finalist: Andrea Price

Mount Zion High School – Jonesboro, GA

Andrea Price is certified in Mathematics and Gifted Endorsed in Mathematics. She is a MIMIO Certified Trainer, NSHSS Educator of Distinction, and is completing her Teacher Support and Coaching Endorsement. She is currently an educator at Mt. Zion High School, where she has served as Mathematics Department Chair, Zionette Dance Team Coach, and Academic Coach of CTAE, Fine Arts, Mathematics and Science Departments. Price is also a fine arts educator and owner of Price Performing Arts Center in College Park, GA.

Teacher of the Year Finalist: Rajini Sundararaj

M.E. Stilwell School of the Arts – Jonesboro, GA

Rajini Sundararaj is a physics and environmental science teacher who has been teaching science for 24 years. She attends various STEAM related workshops and conferences every year and introduces interdisciplinary projects into her classroom.

Teacher of the Year Finalist: Dr. Larina Warnock

Roseburg High School – Roseburg, OR

Dr. Larina Warnock holds a doctorate from Creighton University and teaches business at Roseburg High School, where she also advises Roseburg Future Business Leaders of America. Her TEDx talk, "The Other Statistic," is on the TEDx YouTube channel.

NSHSS Principal of the Year: Robert Anstey

Canada Star Secondary School – Richmond, B.C., Canada

Hailing from Vancouver, Robert Anstey is a passionate educator who has previously been recognized for his incredible contributions to education by the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Principal of the Year Finalist: Darion Walton

Dallas Independent School District – Dallas, TX

Darion Walton currently serves as District Administrator for Dallas ISD and Professor of Business and Adult Educational Learning for Dallas Colleges. He is the Chief Financial Officer of Walton Inspires, a nonprofit organization that unlocks the potential of young people nationwide.

NSHSS Counselor of the Year: Michelle Gomez

Moreno Valley Unified School District – Moreno Valley, CA

Michelle Gomez specializations in Bullying Prevention and Counselor Leadership and has worked as a school counselor in the Moreno Valley Unified School District since 2004.

Counselor of the Year Finalist: Sylvester Hanner

George Westinghouse High School – Pittsburgh, PA

Sylvester Hanner has worked in a variety of higher education settings, including academic affairs, teaching, supervision, and professional counseling. A doctoral candidate in Duquesne’s Counselor Education and Supervision program, Hanner’s research focuses on the school counselor’s role in the academic success and equity of underserved students.

Counselor of the Year Finalist: Dr. Clara Lauderdale

Westfield High School – Houston, TX

Dr. Clara Lauderdale has been an educator for 26 years and continues to have a passion to lead and serve students toward excellence. She serves as the College Counselor at Westfield High School in Spring ISD.

NSHSS Band/Music Leader of the Year: Kristen Singer

Kenosha Unified School District – Kenosha, WI

Kristen Singer teaches theater and choir at Harborside Academy. In the summer, she directs the Kenosha Youth Performing Arts Company (KYPAC). Singer works as an actress/singer and can be seen in the film, The Fear of Looking Up, and heard in The Book of Birdie. She received her master's in Musical Theatre Vocal Pedagogy in May 2020 from Carthage College.

NSHSS Band/Music Leader of the Year: Robin Gin

Northview High School – Covina, CA

Mr. Gin has been the Director of Bands at Northview High School since 2017. He is a member of the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association, California Music Education Association, National Association for Music Education, and the Winter Guard Association of Southern California.

Band/Music Leader Finalist: Kelli Morrison

Portales High School – Portales, NM

Kelli Morrison, in her fifteenth year of teaching, is the Director of Bands at Portales High School. Morrison is a graduate of Eastern New Mexico University, where she is currently the President of the ENMU Alumni Band. She is also the Vice President of the Southeast New Mexico Music Educators Association.

Band/Music Leader Finalist: Christopher Wink

North Babylon High School – North Babylon, NY

Christopher Wink is a music teacher at North Babylon High School and is the director of the concert band, wind ensemble, jazz band, and marching band, as well as the pit orchestra conductor and coordinator of the district’s AP Music Theory program. In 2020, he was a quarterfinalist for the Grammy Foundation’s Educator of the Year Award.

NSHSS Coach of the Year: Helen Freeman

Huntington High School – Cabell County, WV

Helen Freeman has been teaching for 35 years. For the last 14 years, she has taught theater, speech, and debate at Huntington High School. Her speech team has blossomed into one of the premier programs in the state.

Coach of the Year Finalist: Michael Grether

Rolesville High School – Rolesville, NC

Michael Grether teaches AP Human Geography and World History at Rolesville High School. He coaches cross country and track & field; earning six conference championships, one regional championship, and four top ten state finishes during Rolesville’s seven-year history. In 2018, Grether started an educational small business that serves students in more than 35 states and four countries.

Coach of the Year Finalist: Lem Wheeles

A.J. Dimond High School – Anchorage, AK

Lem Wheeles has taught social studies at A.J. Dimond High School for his entire teaching career. Under his leadership, Dimond Student Government has been awarded the National Gold Council of Excellence Award. He has been recognized as the Alaska History Teacher of the Year, Alaska World Affairs Council’s Teacher of the Year, the Model UN of Alaska Advisor of the Year, and a BP Teacher of Excellence. Wheeles also serves on the Alaska Professional Teaching Practices Commission and as Parliamentarian for the Anchorage Education Association and NEA-Alaska

About National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS):

NSHSS is the premier international honors and scholarship program co-founded by Claes Nobel, the senior member of the Nobel Prize family, and James Lewis. NSHSS offers a lifetime of benefits, pairing the highest performing students worldwide with high school and college scholarships, events, connections, internships, and career opportunities that begin in high school and carry on through college and careers. For more information, visit https://www.nshss.org/.

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