AMLE Selects Caitlin Hutt as 2024 Conrad Toepfer Award Recipient

The Award recognizes projects and programs that advance the civic engagement of middle school students

Columbus, OH  — The Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) has announced Caitlin Hutt and the Samantha Smith Project as the 2024 recipient of the Conrad Toepfer Award for the Civic Engagement of Middle School Students.

Since 2018, Caitlin has used the Samantha Smith Challenge to provide her students with a collaborative educational experience that builds bridges between the classroom and the world inspired by Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) project portrait subjects. AWTT was founded by artist Robert Shetterly, who painted 270 portraits of “courageous citizens,” to support the ongoing struggle to realize America’s democratic ideals and model the commitment to act for the common good. As students work through the challenge, they develop connections to global issues they feel passionate about through art that shares their knowledge and perspectives on their chosen topic. The student projects are then showcased for the community in a gallery-style display at the conclusion of the challenge each year.

“I am honored to receive the Conrad Toepfer Award for the Civic Engagement of Young People for The Samantha Smith Challenge Project,” said Hutt on learning of her selection for the award, “The Samantha Smith Challenge Project engages students in becoming activists for issues they find important. It elevates their voices and helps them become strong advocates for change. As a student of mine stated, ‘Hope is power, power is hope. The Samantha Smith Challenge made me feel powerful and hopeful.’ I am very excited to share the inspiring work created by Troy Howard Middle School Students at AMLE24.”

The award, named in honor of Dr. Conrad Toepfer, recognizes initiatives that engage students in meaningful experiences that help them relate facts, skills, and concepts to their own interests and real-world problems. Dr. Toepfer was a distinguished scholar, visionary educator, and long-time proponent of middle level schools that support the creation of moral citizens who can responsibly participate in a democratic society.

“It has been a rewarding experience learning about the amazing ways that teachers and students are truly engaging in meaningful experiences that represent Dr. Toepfer, said Dr. Toni Williams, AMLE Trustee and Chair of the Toepfer Award Committee. “I encourage all middle level teachers to learn about Dr. Toepfer‘s life and legacy and to share his passion with their students.  The successful project empowers students to become upstanding, thoughtful individuals who have a positive impact on their local communities.”

Hutt will be recognized at AMLE24: The 51st Annual Conference for Middle Level Education where they will also present the project.


About the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE)

The Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) is an international membership organization that helps middle grades educators reach every student, grow professionally, and create great schools.

Media Contact

Stephanie Simpson | AMLE | 800-528-6672 | | @AMLE