W&S, CPS name Hughes teacher Educator of Year

Susan Grasso – a teacher at Hughes STEM High School – is the 2024 Dr. Lawrence C. Hawkins Educator of the Year. 

The awards program is a partnership between Western & Southern Financial Group and Cincinnati Public Schools. For winning, Grasso received a plaque and a personal check for $10,000.

“As a District, we are incredibly proud of Susan Grasso and her exceptional care and dedication to improving outcomes for her students,” said Shauna Murphy, CPS interim superintendent. 

“Ms. Grasso goes above and beyond to provide engaging and challenging real-world projects and experiences, equipping her students for careers in information technology,” Murphy continued. “Her care for her students is evident and she empowers them to achieve.”

Susan Grasso receives the Hawkins Educator of the Year award.

Murphy went on to thank Western & Southern for honoring Grasso’s achievements and applauded the Cincinnati-based organization for honoring all the educators who received nominations.

Western & Southern hosted an awards ceremony at the Guilford Building downtown on May 16. WLWT-TV anchor Courtis Fuller served as emcee.

“Western & Southern Financial Group is pleased to recognize Susan Grasso for her outstanding work and dedication to her students,” said John F. Barrett, Western & Southern’s chairman, CEO and president. “Susan’s exceptional commitment to the youth of Cincinnati helps grow our region and make it the best place to live, work and celebrate life.”

Honoring excellence, innovation in education

Established by Western & Southern in 2007, the annual Hawkins Award honors a CPS educator who elevates the educational process in the district to an exceptional level through personal commitment, dedicated focus and outstanding results.

The prize’s namesake is the late Lawrence C. Hawkins, a former Tuskegee Airman-turned-educator who served as a distinguished member of the Western & Southern board of directors for many years.

Western & Southern and other reviewers went through a list of nominations from CPS teachers and administrators to whittle the field down to 15 semifinalists. The district then surprised the five finalists at their respective schools in mid-April.

The other finalists were Ariel Crump, Pleasant Ridge Montessori; Aaron Parker, Aiken New Tech High School; Sarah Sifri, Winton Hills Academy; and Deidre Simpson, Evanston Academy.

To be eligible, CPS faculty members must have at least five years of teaching experience, including their three most recent years in the district. Past winners aren’t eligible.

Susan Grasso (middle) surprised at Hughes.

In the end, the group selected Grasso as the 2024 winner. She’s been at Hughes since August 2014, currently serving as department chair for career technical education. On her LinkedIn, she describes herself as specializing in the support of high school students majoring in programming and software development.

Grasso has taken part in a variety of IT and STEM-related special projects during her decade with CPS. That list includes the Hughes-Hyde Park IT Collaborative, which brings together high school mentors and elementary students to introduce young students to programming and software development.

“This award is very meaningful, especially knowing that I was nominated by my colleagues,” Grasso said. “For my peers to say that I’ve not only made an impact on my students, but also on them is really remarkable.”

Dr. Lawrence C. Hawkins Educator of the Year Award

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