Community Foundation Announces 2016 “Educators of Excellence" The Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty led the charge in naming the 2016 recipients of the Lakota Educator of Excellence Award this week. The highest staff honor, directed by com

Community Foundation Announces 2016 “Educators of Excellence"
Community Foundation Announces 2016 “Educators of Excellence"The Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty led the charge in naming the 2016 recipients of the Lakota Educator of Excellence Award this week. The highest staff honor, directed by community nominations, belongs to: Todd Caulfield, sixth grade teacher at Cherokee Elementary; Tracey Kornau, physical education teacher and varsity girls volleyball coach at Lakota West High School; and Jeff Rouff, principal at Hopewell Junior.

The Community Foundation’s award provides an opportunity for the community to nominate educators in the Lakota School District who demonstrate a high commitment to their students and their community.

“Every year, I am overwhelmed by the number and strength of nominations,” said Erin Clemons, president and CEO for the Community Foundation. “The high quality of Lakota’s educators is evident through the words of students, parents, fellow staff and even community members who have witnessed or personally benefited from their work.”

The selection committee consists of both Foundation and Lakota staff reviewing the nomination letters and deliberating as a group. The award includes a $2,000 grant for the implementation of a special project or program at the recipient’s school, made possible through the generosity of private donors.

Each year, two recipients are selected to represent grades PreK-6 and 7-12, respectively. This year, the selection committee was so impressed by the portfolio of letters for Jeff Rouff that it actually added a third award, specifically to recognize a deserving administrator, without the attached monetary award.

Each recipient was honored within their school communities with a special surprise recognition. “The ‘Educator of Excellence’ award is a long-standing tradition at Lakota and continues to be the gold standard for teaching excellence here in our community,” said Lakota Superintendent Dr. Karen Mantia.

She added, “We wanted our honorees to be surrounded by the students, parents and colleagues who have been most impacted by their influence. The three events were designed to be something very special – a moment we hope they’ll remember for the remainder of their career and thereafter.”

For Caulfield, that recognition included nominations from numerous current and former students. Rocky Anzalone, class of 2020, cited Caulfield’s ability to “challenge me every day. He didn’t just give us worksheets, but used technology and small groups to make math more fun and exciting. I remember looking forward to his class every day.”

According to his letters, Caulfield takes an unconventional approach to math instruction, leading lessons from all parts of the room and encouraging students to use all of the resources available to them – from technology to pencils and paper, to dry erase boards, the smart board and active play.

 “Todd knows his students. He listens, talks and watches. He takes the time to sit with them to teach at any time of the day – before or after school, during his plan time or lunch. He knows their struggles and strengths. And somehow he can get our kids to ‘get it’,” said fellow Cherokee teacher Monica Lidman.

Caulfield is advisor to the school’s Student Council, helping students learn the importance of leadership and community service. He also serves on Cherokee’s Building Leadership Team, Data Team, Safety Team and, at the district level, as a technology integrator and curriculum partner.

Kornau’s letters overwhelmingly noted her commitment to the school and community beyond her classroom hours. Former student Jen Mathie Anderson stated, “I will say, she is a remarkably effective teacher, has a dynamic presence, and is creative in motivating her students to give their best. What really sets Tracey apart, however, is her selfless vision to step into hardship and bring light, hope and help into real life situations.”

Kornau, who has taught and coached at Lakota since the early 1990s, pioneered Lakota West’s annual Volley for the Cure event, which has raised more than $95,000 for the local Susan G. Komen organization. Many nominators referenced Kornau’s selflessness, compassion and support of her players’ development as leaders who put others first.

According to Joan and Tim Stoltz, whose daughter Victoria was coached by Kornau, “A great coach teaches her players more than just a sport. She should be a role model, a teacher of character and a mentor through life problems. Coach Kornau led by example and challenged her players on and off the court. She exemplifies courage, empathy, humility, compassion, dedication and leadership.”

Rouff, five-year principal at Hopewell Junior, started as a social studies teacher there and has even coached the school’s seventh grade football and basketball teams. According to parent Kathleen Sevilla Strack, “He wholeheartedly understands how crucial the middle school years are and that there is more to educating the young men and women at Hopewell Junior than just academics. Jeff knows each and every child by name. He knows their likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses and what makes each child tick. He knows what is going on at home and is extremely aware of how that impacts the child at school.”

Rouff’s efforts to establish connections with his families and the surrounding community were repeatedly noted. Creative community outreach projects that Rouff has championed include a school community service group, Excellence in Action, which provides access for students who may struggle finding a niche organization. Also, under his direction, twice a week community volunteers provide a study session for the school’s ELL (English Language Learner) students.

Hopewell’s Assistant Principal John Wise noted, “Jeff regularly takes time out of his school day and after school time to sit down one-on-one with students to work on assignments, check grades, fill out important paperwork, or just talk through their problems. At any point throughout the day, you could find a student from all walks of life hanging out in his office being provided with care and attention.”

In addition to the 2016 Educator of Excellence recipients, the following Lakota staff members were nominated for the award:

Elementary Finalists (PreK-6)
•    Jackie Bender – Union Elementary
•    Heather Finn – Hopewell Elementary
•    Jean Fox – VanGorden Elementary
•    Kim Gaffney – Adena Elementary
•    Julie Gunderson – Endeavor Elementary
•    Danita Taylor – Cherokee Elementary
•    Amy Smith – Endeavor Elementary
•    Eunice Vogelsang – Liberty Early Childhood School
•    Terrie Williamson – Endeavor Elementary

Secondary Finalists (7-12)
•    Bethany Dunn – Lakota West High School
•    Lisa Landers – Lakota East High School
•    Rob Tanis – Lakota East High School

Cherokee Elementary Principal Paulette Grady (at left) listens as Lakota Superintendent Dr. Karen Mantia commends Todd Caulfield as an Educator of Excellence.

Former Lakota West volleyball players and their families helped to honor Tracey Kornau (center, holding flowers) during the surprise recognition event.

Jeff Rouff (at left) receives the proclamation from Dave Bruno, chief of staff for State Representative Margy Conditt, as Hopewell Junior's choir members applaud in the background. The choir dedicated a song to Rouff, sharing their appreciation for their principal.