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Celebrating Our 2024 Educators of Excellence from Adena, West & Heritage

Celebrating Our 2024 Educators of Excellence from Adena, West & Heritage

The Northern Cincinnati Foundation, in partnership with Lakota Local Schools, is proud to announce the recipients of the 2024 Lakota Educator of Excellence Awards. This year’s honorees include: 

  • Elementary (PreK-6) Winner: Diane Meyer
    Fifth Grade Teacher – Adena Elementary School
  • Secondary (7-12) Winner: Bethany Dunn
    English Language Arts Teacher – Lakota West High School
  • Administrator / Support Staff Winner: Amy Fugate
    Assistant Principal – Heritage Early Childhood School

Each recipient was honored with a special surprise celebration that included their families during “Teacher Appreciation Week” and within their respective school communities. 

“It was an honor and a privilege to celebrate these fantastic educators who have made such a lasting impact on their students and peers over the years,” said Lakota Interim Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Lolli. “We appreciate the partnership with the Northern Cincinnati Foundation to continue this great tradition.”

Blonde woman in floral shirt grinning with hands clasped together and students surrounding her

Diane Meyer, who has served the Adena Elementary school community for 30 years, was applauded for her exceptional teaching, genuine care for students and most prominently, the connection she’s drawn between school, home and our community. Specifically, this includes her long-term commitment as a volunteer at the Meadow Ridge Homework Club. The program supports academic achievement and family engagement for Adena families residing in this neighborhood. 

“Mrs. Meyer motivates students, often going to the neighborhood playground, and encouraging them to come inside to complete homework and work on skills,” wrote Marietta Hummons, the Club’s literacy program coordinator. “She consistently shows great value for the importance of ongoing communication between home, the community and the school.” 

Better known to her students as the mayor of “Meyer Math Land,” Meyer was commended for building a culture in her classroom that celebrates mistakes. In fact, one of her students wrote, “If I’m not understanding something, she always helps my brain grow.” She was also praised for making learning fun, including her tradition of making up jingles to help her students with math facts and strategies. 

Woman in long blue dress and jean jacket smiling in front of classroom

Bethany Dunn has left her mark on Lakota West High School students for the last two decades. The majority of her nomination letters came from current and past students, a testament to the strong connection and sense of community she builds in her classroom. As two former students wrote, “When students complete a year with Mrs. Dunn, they walk away knowing that they belong and what they say matters.” They celebrated her “selflessness and motherly instincts” that oftentimes lead her to after-school Lakota events to cheer on her students outside of the classroom. Another student suggested that, “It always seemed as though Mrs. Dunn’s room had some magnet pulling students back in,” describing the turnstile of current and former students visiting her classroom on any given day. 

Story after story in Dunn’s stack of letters recounted her ability to gain the attention and admiration of students who traditionally disliked language arts while also challenging her advanced students to excel. “Mrs. Dunn perfects the productive struggle,” wrote a parent of children who all gravitated toward the sciences, but learned to appreciate literature under Dunn’s care. “She meets kids where they are when they enter her classroom and through revision and support, helps them grow as both writers and critics of literature beyond what they thought possible.” She was recognized for creating a space that welcomes deep analysis, questions, conversation and connection. 

Brunette woman in long olive green dress and jean jacket with hands over her mouth in surprise

On the cusp of her retirement, Amy Fugate received the Administrator/Support Staff Award after dedicating 31 years, nearly her entire career, to the Lakota community. Her journey started as a student teacher at Adena Elementary and ends with her current post as assistant principal at Heritage ECS. She also spent time at the original Lakota Early Childhood Center, later named Creekside ECS, as well as Shawnee ECS. 

Fugate’s letters aligned with Heritage ECS’s motto, “Heritage has HEART,” the HEART standing for helpful and kind, expert problem solver, always safe, respectful and responsible, and teamwork. She was applauded for her deep passion and expertise for special education, one letter saying this: “Every child deserves a champion - an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best that they possibly can be. Mrs. Fugate has been a champion to countless students in Lakota.”  

She was described as a lifelong learner who strives to help others and is known best for responding with, “How can I help?” Her colleagues commended her for being the voice of calm in times of stress and a comforting presence for students and staff, alike. The PTO applauded her for always supporting and contributing to their ideas. “Every before or after school event that the PTO has help, Mrs. Fugate is there, asking what she can do to help make the event a success.” 

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 through sponsorship from Phelan Insurance.

A selection committee consisting of a different combination of Lakota staff each year review the nomination letters and vote 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 2024 Educator of Excellence recipients, the following Lakota staff members were nominated for the award:

Elementary Finalists (PreK-6)

  • Monica Lidman (Cherokee Elementary)

Secondary Finalists (7–12)

  • AnneMarie Clevidence (Lakota West High School)
  • Shari DeRossett (Lakota West High School)
  • Jesse Dornan (Lakota East High School)
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