Lakota Schools surprise top instructors with grants

It’s an annual Lakota Schools’ surprise that thrills winning teachers and delights their grateful students and fellow school staffers.

Lakota teachers — one each from elementary and this year a group from a high school — and one school administrator are chosen by local judges each year as “Educators of Excellence.”

The winners, who get a $1,000 grant for their chosen school project or program, learn of their honors with surprise appearances at their school by Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller and school board members — sometimes in novel fashion.

This week saw 23-year teaching veteran Jenny Hutzelman get the news of her win delivered via her computer laptop and then with balloons and applause by school officials, co-workers and her second-grade students at Heritage Early Childhood School.

“It is always priceless to witness the shock of our winners when we unexpectedly show up in their classroom or at a staff meeting,” said 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,” he said.

Hutzelman, expanded her school’s campus garden into an outdoor learning space, which besides growing food for the students also serves as a natural, hands-on learning venue.

Heritage school parent Amanda Budde said Hutzelmann “is creative and based on the projects … she puts 100 percent effort into her students and goes above and beyond.”

The $1,000 award, which began in 2007, comes from Phelan Insurance with support from the Northern Cincinnati Foundation.

Winners are honored for their work from the previous school year.

“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.”

Multiple winners this year earned the grades 7-12 honor.

The teaching group consisted of: Roxanne Begley, Stacey Cooke and Emily Edwards from Lakota East Freshman School for developing cross-curricular projects, said judges.

And the winning school administrator is Scott Laman, associate principal of Lakota West Freshman School.

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