The top two Lakota instructors — and a school principal — from this school year were surprised recently by district officials who visited them to reveal their winning excellence honors in front of their students and others.
The annual Lakota Educator of Excellence Awards, which are co-sponsored by the Northern Cincinnati Foundation, recognizes two teachers and a school building administrator in a long-time tradition each school year for Butler County’s largest school system.
This year’s winners are in the primary grades category, Melissa Riehle, 2nd grade teacher at Wyandot Early Childhood School; secondary grades Ellen Bowmann, special education teacher at Lakota East High School and school principal Mary Brophy from Hopewell Early Childhood School.
Each of the teachers receive $1,000 grants for use in their classrooms while the school administrative award includes no money.
The spring-time ritual of surprising the teacher winners also included their families and students watching as Lakota officials, including some school board members, popping into the schools for the announcement and presentation of the awards.
Lakota Interim Superintendent Robb Vogelmann, said: “As always, this year’s honorees are model educators and represent the qualities we appreciate in so many of our teachers, administrators and support staff across Lakota.”
“We appreciate the ongoing partnership with the Northern Cincinnati Foundation to continue this great tradition,” said Vogelmann.
Riehle, who in her 17 years at Lakota has also served the Independence and Woodland school communities, was applauded by several of her colleagues for not just being a teacher for young learners, but a mentor to her fellow educators, said district officials.
Her announcement ceremony included a group hug from some of her Wyandot students.
Sara Mosteller, a Lakota parent and community liaison, said Riehle “pursues professional learning opportunities to continue to improve her own skills and has not allowed the thief of time to steal her joy of being in the classroom”
According to Lakota officials, Riehle was repeatedly commended for her personalized approach to teaching, including handling difficult behavior challenges and special learning needs “with compassion and excellence.”
She was recognized for her intentional effort to make real-world connections, namely through frequent class visitors and her participation in the “Global Read Aloud” to connect her students with people all around the world. She is also an avid supporter of the community’s annual Martin Luther King student contest, coaching and supporting many winners over the years.
On the cusp of her retirement, Principal Brophy has worked her entire 35-year career at Lakota. Her current post as principal at Hopewell ECS was preceded by positions at two other Lakota schools as an ESL and special education tutor, reading specialist, second grade teacher, assistant principal and principal at Wyandot.
Brophy was described as the epitome of a hands-on and “lead by example” type of leader who wears many different hats, by those who nominated her.