Honoring 2020 Educators of Excellence

Honoring Lakota's 2020 Educators of Excellence
Posted on 10/20/2020
This is the image for the news article titled Honoring Lakota's 2020 Educators of Excellence

2020 photos of Educators of Excellence

The Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty, in partnership with Lakota Local Schools, are proud to announce the three recipients of the 2020 Lakota Educator of Excellence Awards. The 2020 honorees include: 

  • Elementary (PreK-6) Winner: Tricia Nation

       Reading Intervention Specialist – Cherokee Elementary School

  • Secondary (7-12) Winner: Julie Fuqua
    Band Director – Hopewell Junior School

  • Administrator Winner: Valerie Montgomery
    Principal – Cherokee Elementary

“We are grateful to have the support of the Community Foundation in regularly recognizing some of our most dedicated and impactful educators,” said Lakota Superintendent Matthew Miller. “The Educator of Excellence award never fails to uncover thoughtful stories about the impact our staff have on their students and our families on a daily basis. We are especially proud of this year’s winners and so grateful for all that they do.” 

Each recipient was honored within their school communities with a special surprise recognition this week. 

Officially Cherokee Elementary School’s reading intervention specialist, Tricia Nation’s nomination letters repeatedly referred to her as a building leader who is so much more than her title implies. Besides partnering with classroom teachers to create “a kid-focused, supportive, caring and safe relationship with her students,” as described by Principal Valerie Montgomery, she also works tirelessly to represent students’ interests as a member of the school’s data, building leadership and crisis teams, among others. She is called upon frequently to help students in need of extra emotional support. 

“All teachers wear many different hats. It’s not on the job description, but it’s still part of the job,” wrote her colleague, Michael Halstead. “No teacher personifies this more than Tricia Nation.” 

According to the nomination letters written on her behalf, Julie Fuqua’s 30 years at Lakota (all spent at Hopewell) have been marked by patience and passion. “Whether it be working with a student who is just picking up an instrument for the first time, or a first chair musician that is destined for greatness, Julie has the ability to reach both in their own way,” said Hopewell Junior Principal Jeff Rouff. Over and over again, she was commended for her ability to build confidence and instill qualities of perseverance, discipline and respect, while creating a safe and inclusive learning environment. 

“Ms. Fuqua navigates the junior high school years with a rare sense of humor and depth of acceptance that is life-changing for her students, “ wrote one parent. “She connects with them in a magical kind of way, teaching young musicians to play, but more importantly imparting life lessons about teamwork, dedication and perseverance.” 

The principal at Cherokee Elementary for the last five years, Valerie Montgomery has earned the respect and admiration of her staff, students and parents. Described as a “fearless leader” and a “true instructional leader,” Valerie was commended for her ability to find unconventional ways to make an impact with her students and staff. According to her nomination letters, her leadership style is marked by positivity, selflessness, listening and co-ownership and has been especially effective in responding to the challenges of the current pandemic. 

“What makes a school somewhere children long to be? A school that provides an atmosphere of togetherness with a welcoming, caring staff that works diligently to make sure every child feels loved. This is something that is truly, demonstrated, embraced and prioritized by Valerie Montgomery,” wrote Cherokee ESL teacher Leslie King.  

The Lakota Educator of Excellence Award was established in 2007 to recognize educators in the Lakota School District who demonstrate consistency and high commitment to students. These individuals motivate, share ideas, inspire, support and go beyond to make a difference in the community. The grade level awards include a $1,000 grant for the implementation of a special project or program at the recipient’s school, made possible this year through sponsorship from Phelan Insurance.

“The Foundation is proud to partner with Lakota Local Schools, and Phelan Insurance, on the Educator of Excellence Awards,” said Foundation President & CEO Erin Clemons. “This year more than ever, when our schools have been facing some tough challenges, it is important to recognize the outstanding educators who work diligently every day to make the future a little bit brighter for their students.” 

A selection committee consisting of Community Foundation and Lakota staff reviewed the nomination letters and voted on the final recipients. Two winners are selected to represent grades PreK-6 and 7-12. The committee can also opt to recognize a deserving administrator or support staff member, without the attached monetary award.

In addition to the 2020 Educator of Excellence recipients, the following Lakota staff members were nominated for the award:

Elementary Finalists (PreK-6)

Kathryn Abner (Heritage ECS)

Deanna Bowling (Endeavor)

Abigail Detcher (Wyandot ECS)

Linda Gallagher (VanGorden)

Jen Greer (Woodland)

Lisa Harter (Hopewell ECS)

Christa MacFarlane (Liberty ECS)

Melissa Riehle (Wyandot ECS)

Ashley Shircliff (Endeavor)


Secondary Finalists (7 – 12)

Allison Billups (Lakota West)

Ellen Bowmann (Lakota East)

Monica Dolik (Lakota East)

David Klaserner (Lakota West)

Nicole Lampe (Lakota West)

Beth Lange (West Freshman)

Aaron Nunley (Plains Junior)

Doug Panfalone (Ridge Junior)

Lauren Spencer (Plains Junior)

Tom Thompson (Plains Junior)