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Spring Breakfast of Excellence Honors Outstanding Lakota Staff Members

Spring Breakfast of Excellence Honors Outstanding Lakota Staff Members

On May 17, Interim Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Lolli hosted Lakota’s Breakfast of Excellence, a new bi-annual event to recognize and celebrate staff members who go above and beyond to serve Lakota students. “We have staff members in many different roles who all serve our students in a variety of ways,” said Lolli. “The Breakfast of Excellence is a way to acknowledge their dedication and say thank you.” 

Any Lakota employee may submit a nomination to their administrator or supervisor. Teachers and building principals must have shown high academic achievement on state or MAP testing in addition to showing their commitment to students through relationship building and other acts of support. Employees in other roles must show a commitment to serving students through a variety of actions and support.

Congratulations to the 13 employees who were recognized at last week’s celebration:

  • Sally Barker is an instructional aide at Lakota East High School whose primary focus is on supporting the school’s English language learners. She also serves as the advisor for the Lakota East Veteran’s Network, a role that encompasses regular Honor Flight welcome home events, the school’s annual Veteran’s Day ceremony and the two-year tradition of hosting one of the region’s annual Naturalization Ceremonies. “When there are great things taking place at Lakota East High School beyond the scope of the everyday order of events, with reasonable certainty IT can be assumed that Sally Barker is involved with it!” said Lakota East Principal Rob Burnside.
  • Scot Camden, the head custodian at Liberty Junior School, was applauded for building positive connections in his school community during just two years on the job. “He not only takes care of our building, but also every person inside the building,” said Liberty Principal Linda Burwinkel of Scot, who also stepped up to coach football and track. “He steps up in every way possible for our students. He cares about people and he puts others before himself every day.” 
  • Teri Garlich, the registered nurse at Heritage Early Childhood School, was nominated by Kelly Short, Lakota’s manager of health services, for her efforts this year to assist a student in educating her classmates about a rare medical condition. She received immense gratitude for her compassionate approach to the situation. “Teri exemplifies the caring spirit of the nursing team at Lakota. Her tireless efforts to support our students at Heritage demonstrate her unwavering dedication,” Short said. “Whether it is going the extra mile or providing empathetic care, Teri consistently puts our students' well-being first.”
  • Jennifer Hall, a math teacher at Independence Elementary School, was nominated for her instructional leadership among the school’s fourth grade team. Her expertise and commitment to collaborating with her peers has resulted in a 95% passage rate on the math state across all fourth-graders for the last five years. Under her leadership, the team has also achieved value added, or growth, scores consistently above the district and state averages. “Jennifer cares not just about her students’ academic growth, but also their social and emotional well-being,” added Independence Principal Julie Nichols, sharing Jennifer’s daily tradition to greet each student at her classroom door with a handshake to reiterate her daily message, “I see you, and you are important to me.” 
  • Tanya Hoeting is a math teacher at Endeavor Elementary School who teaches the school’s most advanced learners. Despite the extra challenge to grow students at high achievement levels, Hoeting’s students’ growth scores on the state test over the last three years have placed her in the category of “significant evidence that the teacher’s students made more growth than expected.” While the state seeks out a growth index of 2.0 or higher, Tanya’s has ranged from 6.0 to 13.5 over the last three years. Furthermore, Endeavor Principal LeAnna Webber applauded Hoteing for her quiet leadership among colleagues. “She never is one to seek praise or attention, but she keeps her head in the game and keeps her kids moving forward.” 
  • According to Lakota Central High School Principal Kate Joseph, art teacher Jodi Kessler has a gift for using art to positively channel students’ anxieties about school. She does this by empowering her students to enter national art contests and competitions. “She works tirelessly to give students a voice and an authentic audience for their work,” Joseph said. “As a result of this, many students with anxiety and fear of speaking have been able to talk about their art to crowds of people. She is diligent and patient in encouraging hard to reach students.” 
  • Endeavor Elementary School’s registered nurse, Brianne Kopecky, was nominated in part for her professional handling of a medical emergency involving a staff member at her school. The principal, LeAnna Webber, added that she witnesses her doing things above and beyond every single day. Lakota’s manager of health services, Kelly Short, also commended Brianne for her commitment to professional development district-wide, noting her voluntary completion of the training to become a CPR instructor and host her own class at Endeavor. “Her commitment to professional development and her willingness to share her knowledge with others exemplify the qualities we value in our nursing team,” Short said. 
  • Kelly McGuire, a special education teacher at Cherokee Elementary School, was nominated by several of her colleagues for her school-to-home communication skills and creative problem solving to meet the expectations of students’ Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs. Her unique skill set has positively influenced her colleagues, “building confidence in teachers to deal with situations and behaviors that they previously were uncertain how to address by encouraging out-of-the-box thinking,” noted Cherokee Principal Valerie Montgomery. “She commits herself to creating and maintaining a team approach where everyone can talk, discussions can be heard and decisions can be decided,” Montgomery continued.
  • Anna Piontek is retiring from Independence Elementary School, a community where she has served as a social studies and English language arts teacher for the last 20 years. In addition to her students’ success on the state tests, Piontek was celebrated by her colleagues for her instructional leadership, one saying, “She knows the standards inside and out and uses that knowledge to plan meaningful lessons and projects that help students learn the content.” She also spearheads two of the school’s most beloved traditions: the Around the World Festival and Market Day. 
  • Katie Woodruff, a special education teacher at Woodland Elementary School, was applauded by Principal John Wise for the care, compassion and constant communication she employs to help her students reach their IEP goals. A mentor to other educators, Woodruff collaborates with a range of Woodland teachers to help her students succeed. “She is dedicated, flexible and excels in her communication with parents,” Wise said, noting all the ways Woodruff supports her students outside of school too. 

Lakota’s esteemed 2024 “Educators of Excellence” - Adena Elementary teacher Diane Meyer, Lakota West teacher Bethany Dunn and Heritage ECS Assistant Principal Amy Fugate - were also recognized during the ceremony. Read more about this year’s Educators of Excellence. 

View photos from the event on Lakota’s Facebook page. 


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