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Celebrating Our 2022 Educators of Excellence

Celebrating Our 2022 Educators of Excellence

The Northern Cincinnati Foundation, in partnership with Lakota Local Schools, is proud to announce the recipients of the 2022 Lakota Educator of Excellence Awards. The 2022 honorees include: 

Elementary (PreK-6) Winner: Kim Snider
Sixth Grade Teacher – Freedom Elementary

Secondary (7-12) Winner: Noelia Brunner
Language arts Teacher – Ridge Junior School

Administrator / Support Staff Winner: Dr. Greg Finke
Principal – Independence Elementary
Each recipient was honored with a special surprise celebration this week among their peers and including their family. 

“It is always priceless to witness the shock of our winners when we unexpectedly show up in their building,” said Lakota Superintendent Matthew Miller. “These individuals should be anything but shocked, considering the positive impact they’ve had on countless students and families over the course of their careers. But it’s humbling to see their reactions and we are so grateful for the opportunity to continue recognizing excellent educators with the support of the Northern Cincinnati Foundation.”

Kim Snider is the founding member of school’s nationally recognized character education program still in use today, Freedom PRIDE. Parents, colleagues and students submitted nomination letters on behalf of Snider, commending her unique ability to lead her peers and build meaningful relationships with students. “She makes EVERY student in her class feel heard, valued and makes sure they know they matter,” wrote parent Jen Russell, also the counselor at Creekside ECS. 

Snider received rave reviews from nearly 50 of her students who shared their experiences with their sixth grade teacher. Among their comments: “She asks us what WE need in a lesson and what will help US learn”; “She works incredibly hard to teach us not just math, but how to function in the world we live in”; “She makes us feel like family”; and “She talks to students and teachers the same.”

Noelia Brunner, who also leads Ridge’s Junior National Honors Society, has left a lasting mark on her students - and their families - through a project she calls the “Holocaust Museum.” The project brings history to life, challenging students to dive into a topic from the era and then work in groups to create a visual display for a museum they open to their school community. Brunner’s nomination letters came from several parents applauding the intellectual and emotional growth they witnessed in their kids through the Holocaust Museum. 

Brunner was also commended for her ability to connect with her students. “Teenagers are not the easiest audience, but a true professional finds a way to reach students, regardless. That is what Noelia does. She is a true gift to our students and schools,” wrote Janette Metzger.

Dr. Greg Finke received the Administrator/Support Staff Award on the cusp of his retirement after 19 years serving the Independence community. Finke received a wide range of letters from colleagues, parents and his teachers. He was applauded for his compassion and enthusiasm, personalized approach to staying connected to his families and staff, and leadership in embracing educational programs of district-wide interest, like E + R = O and makerspaces, for example. Finke was commended for being a leader who contributes wherever needed at that moment, one teacher noting that she’s seen him frequently subbing in the classroom, washing tables in the lunchroom and helping custodians paint and move furniture, for instance. 

“Going to Indy feels more like visiting a friend’s house,” wrote parent Amber Chasteen. “He runs it with such ease that no parent should have any worry or concern, but complete confidence in how much he cares for his students and his school.” 

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 Northern Cincinnati Foundation is so proud to work with Lakota Schools and Phelan Insurance to honor some of the amazing educators we have in this community who go above and beyond every day to shape the future of their students," said Northern Cincinnati Foundation President/CEO Erin Clemons

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 2022 Educator of Excellence recipients, the following Lakota staff members were nominated for the award:

Elementary Finalists (PreK-6)

Maggie Ernstes (Liberty ECS Preschool)
Rachel Cherko (Wyandot ECS)
Jakeb Knight (Woodland Elementary)  

Secondary Finalists (7–12)

Aaron Nunley (Plains Junior School) 
Beth Lange (West Freshman)

Administrator / Support Staff Finalists

Kelly Carstens (Ridge Junior School)
Mark Clevidence (Central Office, 3-6 Special Education Director)