Zacks said she anticipates a similar response from the gala audience.
"The songs they've written for this gala are equally moving," she said. "Children are very wise at very young ages and they see things that sometimes adults miss."
Winners of the inaugural Luminaria Awards include the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences, as well as the late John McClaugherty for his vision of the center; Joe Rice, a 23-year Montessori School teacher; and Austin Susman, a George Washington High School student and Montessori alum who helped create an award-winning anti-bullying video game.
The Luminaria Awards are meant to honor West Virginians who "light the way for education," according to a statement from the school.
"No matter your age or occupation you can do something to help children, and certainly the needs in this state are great," Zacks said.
While the Montessori School holds fundraisers periodically, this is its first gala, she said.
"This is the first time we've done an event on this scale," Zacks said.
Funds raised will go toward the school's operation and financial-aid program. School officials have not raised tuition for five years, she said.
"That's why we are reaching out more to the community," she said. Financial aid is available to parents based on need, she said.
"[The school is] affordable and accessible," Zacks said.
The theme of the gala is lighting the way for education. Dr. Maria Montessori, the namesake for the Montessori method of teaching, believed the role of education was not to make a child learn things but to light a fire of intelligence in them, Zacks said.
All children have that light, though life has a way of dimming it quickly, she said.
"Society needs to recognize the potential of each little child," Zacks said.
For more information or to purchase tickets, call 304-342-7870.Reach Lori Kersey at lori.ker...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.