3 Lakota educators lauded with annual district award for excellence


Butler County’s largest school system has honored three of its educators with its top, annual awards for excellence.

It’s a yearly and joyful surprise for Lakota district officials who have made a tradition of sneaking up on each year’s three Educators of Excellence winners to present them with the news and a $1,000 grant to be used to fund classroom or school building projects.

This year’s winners chosen among nearly a thousand employees in the 17,000-student Lakota district are: Pre-K-6 winner Kim Snider, a 6th grade teacher at Freedom Elementary: Secondary grade winner Noelia Brunner, language arts teacher at Ridge Junior School and soon-to-retire Independence Elementary Principal Greg Finke.

Each were happily shocked when district officials recently appeared at their schools to deliver their honors.

“It is always priceless to witness the shock of our winners when we unexpectedly show up in their building,” said Lakota Schools Superintendent Matt Miller in a released statement.

ExploreLakota Schools surprise top instructors with grants

Miller said “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,” he said referring to one of the foundations, along with Phelan Insurance, that help fund the awards.

The Lakota Educator of Excellence Award was established in 2007 to recognize educators in 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.

A selection committee consisting of Community Foundation and Lakota staff reviewed the nomination letters, including those from fellow staffers and school parents, and voted on the final recipients.

Snider is the founding member of her 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 Early Childhood School.

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.

Finke is the veteran and beloved leader of Independence Elementary who will soon retire after 19 years with Lakota.

Finke received a wide range of letters from colleagues, parents and his teachers.

District officials said he was applauded for his compassion and enthusiasm, personalized approach to staying connected to his families and staff, and leadership.

Finke was commended for being a leader who contributes wherevethe classroom, washing tables in the lunchroom and helping custodians paint and move furniture.r needed at that moment, one teacher noting that she’s seen him frequently subbing in.

“Going to Independence feels more like visiting a friend’s house,” wrote school 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.”

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