2022 Claes Nobel Educators of the Year

Meet our Claes Nobel Educator of the Year Award recipients recognizing for their work helping students build on academic success and grow the skills and desire to have a positive impact in the global community.

Jose Rivas

Jose Rivas left the engineering world to pursue a career in education. He went back to his hometown of Lennox, California, where he teaches Digital Art, AP Physics, Electronics, and Engineering Design to grades 10–12 at Lennox Mathematics, Science, and Technology Academy. His approach to phenomenon-based instruction has garnered him several awards, including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching, and the Northrop Engineering Education Award. His students have built 16-foot solar-electric boats and competed with them in the annual Solar Cup; studied terminal velocity through indoor skydiving; explored the physics of martial arts and developed innovative solutions for the Exploravision competition that have been nationally recognized. Jose graduated from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in education. He is a TeachPlus policy fellow and an Emergent Bilingual Change Agent. When he’s not in the classroom, you’ll find Jose in the dojo practicing Aikido, a Japanese martial art, in which he holds a fourth-degree black belt from the Los Angeles Aikikai. Jose also enjoys playing the ukulele and singing.

Bob Fenster

Bob Fenster is in his 30th year of teaching social studies at Hillsborough High School. This past year he was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame. In addition to teaching AP US Government and Politics and US History I Honors, he advises Model Congress, Model United Nations, Mock Trial, Amnesty International, and the Pride & Prejudice podcast. Bob also serves as the Educational Program Specialist for Revolution NJ, helping to prepare the state's programs for the upcoming 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Trevon Lamar

Trevon Lamar is in his fifth year of teaching Social Studies. For the first three years of his career, he taught in Columbia, SC, and moved to the Atlanta metro area last school year. At Shiloh, Lamar teaches US History and AP US History and searches for ways to allow students to learn the importance and value of Social Studies in connection to the real world. He has had the honor of teaching amazing students, allowing his passion for education to continue growing. The best part of his job is seeing students make real work connections to US History and their everyday lives. The lightbulb moments is perhaps the best part of teaching, besides forming professional relationships with students that last beyond their high school careers. He also serves as the advisor to the Shiloh Student Leadership Team, Gwinnett Student Leadership Team, and the IB Club. Lamar received his undergraduate degree at Augusta University in Augusta, Ga, and his Master's Degree in Education at the University of South Carolina: Columbia. It is worth noting that he is also the first person in his family to go to college.

Tyler Dufrene

Tyler Dufrene has been an educator in the St. Charles Parish School District for six years, most recently teaching 11th-12th grade AP Physics I, Chemistry I, and Robotics at Hahnville High School. He began his career teaching Algebra I and Algebra II at Central Lafourche High School for two years and mathematics courses at the Career Magnet Center for one year. Tyler was recently selected as a 2022 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow. As such, he is spending the 2022-2023 school year working on Capitol Hill with the House Committee on Education and Labor. Tyler has conducted research with the Department of Defense, wrote over $122,000 in grants, and advocated for school employees and students as a duly-elected school board member. Further, Tyler has received a multitude of accolades, including Louisiana Secondary Teacher of the Year from LACUE, and was named a 2021 State Finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching (national results pending). Tyler earned a B.S. in mathematics from Nicholls State University and an M.Ed. from the American College of Education. He is certified in physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics. He is also a certified educational leader and mentor teacher.

Matthew Hummel

Matt Hummel is in his 8th year of teaching at Delaware County Christian School in Newtown Square, PA, and has taught for 10 years in total. Having previously taught middle school math and social studies, he shifted to high school and currently teaches AP U.S. History, honors U.S. History, college prep U.S. History, and a Modern American Issues elective. Additionally, Matt serves as the head of the history department, the lead teacher of the school Honor Committee, the JV boys basketball coach, and was named the most influential teacher by the graduating class of 2022. He received his B.S.Ed. and M.Ed. from West Chester University and is considering the opportunity to pursue a Ph.D. or Ed.D. in the near future. In the classroom, Matt strives to build relationships with students and create an atmosphere where they are encouraged to ask questions and grow in their ability to think critically. Outside the classroom, he recently married his beautiful wife, Kristin, and enjoys hiking, exercising, sports, reading, and spending time with friends and family.

Shawn Mitchell

Mr. Shawn Mitchell is an educator dedicated to the success of all students in the public and private educational sectors. He believes in the betterment and advancement of a quality educational system by supporting that all schools have a mission to be safe, effective, and equitable. Mr. Mitchell believes that we have some of the most talented educators and students in the Nation. This can be demonstrated through the use of objective, data-driven measures to improve inclusivity as we strive to enhance learning for every child. Mr. Shawn Mitchell is currently employed with Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland. He has been a dedicated educator for over 20 years and has a vested interest in his local and regional community. Mr. Mitchell holds a Maryland Advanced Professional Certificate in Chemistry. He has an aptitude for leadership instruction, policy adjudication, and community involvement with all stakeholders vested in K-12 improvement and advancement. His educational accomplishments include a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Hampton University and a Master of Science in Education from Walden University. His passion for fostering and helping every child reach their full potential is always on display in and out of the classroom.

Gigi Azam

I'm honored to be among the top ten finalists for the NSHSS Claes Nobel Educator Award for 2022. I work as a Special education teacher at Crockett Early College High School, and we recently started a rewards program for our students with some money from a grant. The program is a $25 gift card awarded to any student who receives special education services, who has shown an effort to keep grades up (to an 80) in every class and has good attendance. As the 1st grading cycle closed last week, we had 50 students who had qualified to receive this reward. We gave them out this week, and as teachers- we celebrated our student's success. This program incentivizes our special needs students to do better in school as they enjoy learning.

Kimberly Phinney

Kimberly Phinney is an award-winning AP English teacher, advocate, writer, and photographer. She has dedicated her life to the arts, literacy, and mental health causes in underserved communities, as well as others. She was awarded the University of Chicago's Outstanding Educator Award in 2020 and the Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction in 2021. She was recently named a recipient of Marquis Who's Who in America in 2022. Kimberly earned her bachelor's from the top-ranked College of Education teacher's honors program at the University of South Florida and was named Outstanding Senior for the College of Education. She was also a finalist for USF’s Outstanding Senior Award 2006. She earned her M.Ed. from Liberty University in English and studied at Goddard’s MFA program in Creative Writing. Her writing has been published in Ruminate, Ekstasis, The Dewdrop, Calla Press, and The Write Launch, among others. She is also a poetry editor with Agape Review. After almost dying from a severe illness in 2021, she’s now earning her doctorate in community care and counseling to help the marginalized and suffering. She is also the founder of The Way Back to Ourselves, an authentic Christian community, literary journal, and podcast at www.TheWayBack2Ourselves.com.

Benjamin Straka

Benjamin Straka is an Astronomy and Biology teacher at Stillwater Area High School in Oak Park Heights, Minnesota. During his twenty-year career, he has inspired many students to find a passion in studying the night sky and the natural world around them. He takes great pride in helping his students climb their personal mountains and overcome life challenges. In addition to his role as a teacher, he also serves as an assistant track and field coach in the events of pole vault, high jump, and hurdles. Away from school, he enjoys spending time on outdoor adventures and traveling with his family.

Gloria Masterton

Gloria Masterton is a Social Studies teacher at Legion Collegiate Academy in Rock Hill, SC. Gloria is a proud graduate of Grand Valley State University, receiving her BA in Social Studies and Secondary Education. In addition, she also earned her Masters of Education specializing in Multicultural Contexts in Education from the University of South Carolina. Gloria has taught Government, Economics, United States History, and Sociology during her career. She is passionate about making Social Studies relevant to all her students’ prior knowledge and life experiences and truly helping build the leaders of tomorrow. Currently, Gloria leads as the Social Studies Department Chair, Student Council and Yearbook advisor, and faculty mentor and evaluator for her colleagues. Gloria was also named LCA 2022 Teacher of the Year for her continued dedication to her students and accomplishments in education. Outside of the classroom, Gloria has served on the South Carolina Instructional Materials Review Panel for U.S. Government & Advanced Placement, represented South Carolina at the Jumpstart National Educator Conference on Financial Literacy, and sponsored two students in the national competition of National History Day. In her spare time, she enjoys watching Michigan football, being outdoors with her dog Rosie, and spending time with her friends/family.

Claes Nobel Educator of the Year Award

Award: One (1) top award of $5,000, and nine (9) finalist awards of $1,000
Eligibility: Any registered NSHSS Educator that works with high school students in an academic capacity both in the US and internationally. 
A black educator tutoring students

Grant Details:

In 2011, NSHSS awarded its first Claes Nobel Educator of the Year Award to Mr. James B. Carmicle of Hollywood High School in Los Angeles. There was so much interest in the award that for the following year, NSHSS decided to select one individual as our Educator of the Year, with additional finalists selected to become a part of the Top Ten Educators of the Year. We’ve continued with this tradition ever since.

The Educator of the Year Awards are presented annually to exemplary educators who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to preparing students for success in college and in life. These awardees model best practices in teaching or administration inside and outside of the classroom, are peer role models, and demonstrate outstanding leadership and excellence in education. Any high school educator has the opportunity to apply.

Application Requirements:

  • Prompt response of 800-1,000 words to the following question:
    • What is the primary aspect of your teaching philosophy that has a lasting impact on your students? Please give one or two specific examples of how this has worked.
  • Pictures/videos/media showing your leadership in action (optional but strongly encouraged)
  • Color headshot
  • Professional resume
  • Principal/Administrator recommendation
Closing Date: October 1, 2023 by 11:59PM (EST)

Apply now

Previous Educators of the Year

2021 Top Educator of the Year: Kate Margrave, Pine Creek High School, Colorado Springs, CO

2021 Educator of the Year Finalists:

  • William South, Sevier County High School, Sevierville, TN
  • Elise Knable, Caesar Rodney High School, Camden, DE
  • Kevin Cohea, Don Tyson School of Innovation, Springdale, AK
  • Camilla Walck, Princess Anne High School, Virginia Beach, VA
  • Melissa Tracy, Odyssey Charter School, Wilmington, DE
  • Matthew Strine, Monessen High School, Monessen, PA
  • Michele Lamons-Raiford, Pinole Valley High School, Pinole, CA
  • John Stokes, Park Magnet School, Bismarck, AR
  • Thelvie Cullins, School for the Talented and Gifted at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Magnet Center, Dallas, TX

2020 Top Principal of the Year: Robert Anstey, Canada Star Secondary School, Richmond, BC, Canada

2020 Top Principal of the Year Finalist: Darion Walton, Dallas ISD, Dallas, TX

2020 Top Teacher of the Year: Dr. Chikezie Madu, White Station High School, Memphis, TN

2020 Top Teacher of the Year Finalists: 

  • Rajini Sundararaj, Martha Ellen Stilwell School of the Arts, Jonesboro, GA
  • Andrea Price, Mt. Zion High School, Jonesboro, GA
  • Tobie Lambert, Mississippi School of the Arts,  Brookhaven, MS
  • Dr. Larina Warnock, Roseburg High School, Roseburg, OR
  • Kristie Letter, Peak to Peak High School, Lafayette, CO
  • Dave Case, Hood River Valley High School, Hood River, OR
  • Katherine Amos, Sierra High School, San Diego, CA

2020 Top Counselor of the Year: Michelle Gomez, Canyon Springs High School, Moreno Valley, CA

2020 Top Counselor of the Year Finalists: 

  • Sylvester Hanner, George Westinghouse High School, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Dr. Clara Lauderdale, Westfield High School, Houston, TX

2020 Top Coach of the Year: Helen Freeman, Huntington High School, Huntington, WV

2020 Top Coach of the Year Finalists: 

  • Lem Wheeles, A.J. Dimond High School, Anchorage, AK
  • Michael Grether, Rolesville High School, Rolesville, NC

2020 Top Band/Music Director of the Year: Kristen Singer, Harborside Academy, Kenosha, WI

2020 Top Band/Music Director of the Year Finalists:

  • Robin Gin, Northview High School, Covina, CA
  • Kelli Morrison, Portales High School, Portales, NM
  • Christopher Wink, North Babylon High School, North Babylon, N

2019 Top Educator of the Year: Sofia Gonzalez, J S Morton High School East, Cicero, IL

2019 Educator of the Year Finalists:

  • Cristin Calder, Archbishop McCarthy High School, Southwest Ranches, FL
  • Davida Robinson, Uplift Peak Preparatory, Dallas, TX
  • Jason Schrock, Howell High School, Howell, MI
  • Meredith McCullough, Kenai Central High School, Kenai, AK
  • Sean Pang, Rockville High School, Rockville, MD
  • Sean Russell, Manchester Central High School, Manchester, NH
  • Stephanie Lopez, Preparatory Academy for Writers, Queens, NY
  • Tiffany Bernier, Valencia High School, Valencia, CA
  • Tracy Bates, Norman North High School, Norman, OK

2018 Top Educator of the Year: Christine Fryer, MLK - Educational Campus High School for Law Advocacy and Community Justice, New York, NY

2018 Top Educator of the Year Finalists:

  • Mary Buehner, Ashley Ridge High School, Summerville, SC
  • Ashley Butler, Pickens High School, Pickens, SC
  • Diana Gano, Glenda Dawson High School, Pearland, TX
  • Tiffany Jackson, Travis Early College High School, San Antonio, TX
  • Dana Kelly, Central High School MCA, Louisville, KY
  • Michele Lamons-Raiford, Pinole Valley High, Pinole, CA
  • Dawn Lister, Calvert High School, Prince Frederick, MD
  • Frances Meetze, Mid-Carolina High School, Prosperity, SC
  • Kathleen Williams, Lake Weir High School, Ocala, FL

2017 Top Educator of the Year: Joyce Kim, Prospect High School, Mount Prospect, IL

2017 Top Educator of the Year Finalists:

  • Thelvie Cullins, Jr., School for the Talented and Gifted at Townview Magnet Center, Dallas, TX
  • Kelly Eddy, Churchill High School, Livonia, MI
  • Bob Fenster, Hillsborough High School, Hillsborough, NJ
  • McKenzie Lueders, Dodge City High School, Dodge City, KS
  • Jo-Ann McCauley, Wesleyan School, Norcross, GA
  • Rebecca Nelson, Oswego East High School, Oswego, IL
  • Cate Praggastis, East High School, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Tad Sours, Haas Hall Academy - Fayetteville, Fayetteville, AR
  • Christopher Wendelin, Amos Alonzo Stagg High School, Palos Hills, IL

2016 Top Educator of the Year: Brian Rodriguez, Alameda Science & Technology Institute, Alameda, CA

2016 Top Educator of the Year Finalists:

  • Thelvie Cullins, Jr., School for the Talented and Gifted at Townview Magnet Center, Dallas, TX
  • Antonios Ekatomatis, Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, MD
  • Jessie Good, Kohler High School, Kohler, WI
  • Michael Lindblad, Gresham High School, Gresham, OR
  • Vicki McGuigan, The Bronx High School of Science, Bronx, NY
  • Marc Pedersen, Paulding County High School, Dallas, GA
  • Gary Piercey, Francis Tuttle Technology Center, Oklahoma City, OK
  • Wendy Wooten, Reseda High School, Reseda, CA
  • James Young, Battle Creek Central High School, Battle Creek, MI

2015 Top Educator of the Year: Jody Zepp, Long Reach High School, Columbia, MD

2015 Top Educator of the Year Finalists:

  • Jennifer Cullison, Woodland High School, Woodland, WA
  • Cindy Cunningham, Appomattox Regional Governor's School for the Arts and Technology, Petersburg, VA
  • Dana Krejcarek, Kohler High School, Kohler, WI
  • Marni Landry, Paradise Valley High School, Phoenix, AZ
  • Stergios Lazos, St. Edward High School, Lakewood, OH
  • Margaret Mitchell, Ridge High School, Basking Ridge, NJ
  • Regina O'Neal, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, East Boston, MA
  • Mary Katherine Parson, Little Rock Central High School, Little Rock, AK
  • Samuel Saenz, East Early College High School, Houston, TX

2014 Top Educator of the Year: Eric Thiel, Amador Valley High, Pleasanton, CA

2014 Top Educator of the Year Finalists:

  • Amy Baker, Frenship High School, Wolfforth, TX
  • Kenneth Bernstein, Cantonsville High School, Cantonsville, MD
  • John Carnesecca, Great Oaks High School, Temecula, CA
  • Ana Castro, DuPont Manual High School, Louisville, KY
  • Ronald Hamme, Upper Dauphin Area High School, Elizabethville, PA
  • Michael Madden, William P. Clements High School, Sugar Land, TX
  • Audrey Schindler McDonald, East Boston High School, East Boston, MA
  • Shane Scott, Jerusalem School, Jerusalem, Israel
  • Erin Smith, Spring Ridge Academy, Spring Valley, AZ

2013 Top Educator of the Year: Brian McDonald, Charles E. Jordan High School, Durham, NC

2013 Top Educator of the Year Finalists:

  • Erin Johnston, South Caldwell High School, Hudson, NC
  • Dana Kling, Brookwood High School, Snellville, GA
  • Dr. Teresita Lemus, John A. Ferguson Senior High, Miami, FL
  • Susan New, Trinity High School, Euless, TX
  • David Quinn, Edmonds-Woodway High School, Edmonds, WA
  • Laurel Spradley, Earl Warren High School, San Antonio, TX
  • Camilla Walck, Princess Anne High School, Virginia Beach, VA
  • David Williams, Valley View High School, Moreno Valley, CA
  • Glenn Yamasaki, Warren High School, Downey, CA

2012 Top Educator of the Year: Patricia Wilson, Bloomington High School North, Bloomington, IN

2012 Top Educator of the Year Finalists:

  • James Brooks, West Wilkes High School, Millers Creek, NC
  • Beth Bynarowicz, Legacy High School, Broomfield, CO
  • Lewis Cobbs, Randolph School, Huntsville, AL
  • Tami Fitzgerald, West Muskingum High School, Zanesville, OH
  • Debra Liberman, George Washington High School, Philadelphia, PA
  • Judy Ritter, North Springs High School, Roswell, GA
  • Brian Rodriquez, Encinal High School, Alameda, CA
  • Melissa Tobin, Methuen High School, Methuen, MA
  • Mark Vondracek, Evanston Township High School, Gurnee, IL