2017 Lakota Educators of Excellence

May 23, 2017  |  educator, lakota

[contributed by: Ginny Hizer, Media & Community Relations Manager, Lakota Local Schools]

The Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty led the charge in naming the 2017 recipients of the Lakota Educator of Excellence Award this week. The highest staff honor, directed by community nominations, were presented to: Cynthia (Cindy) Sorrell, first grade teacher at Wyandot Elementary School; and Jennifer Akers, music teacher at Hopewell Junior School.

The Community Foundation’s award provides an opportunity for the community to nominate educators in the Lakota School District who demonstrate a high commitment to their students and their community.

“Every year, I am overwhelmed by the number and strength of nominations,” said Erin Clemons, president and CEO for the Community Foundation. “The high quality of Lakota’s educators is evident through the words of students, parents, fellow staff and even community members who have witnessed or personally benefited from their work.”

The selection committee consists of both Foundation and Lakota staff reviewing the nomination letters and deliberating as a group. The award includes a $2,000 grant for the implementation of a special project or program at the recipient’s school, made possible through the generosity of private donors.

Each year, two recipients are selected to represent grades PreK-6 and 7-12, respectively. The selection committee also, at their discretion, can opt to recognize a deserving administrator, without the attached monetary award.

“The ‘Educator of Excellence’ award is a long-standing tradition at Lakota,” said Acting Superintendent Robb Vogelmann. “The awards recognize the consistency and high commitment to our students, the dedication of our staff that truly changes students’ lives and benefits our community.”

Each recipient was honored within their school communities with a special surprise recognition.

Vogelmann added, “We wanted our honorees to be surrounded by the students, parents and colleagues who have been most impacted by their influence.”

For Akers, that recognition included nominations from numerous colleagues and parents. One nominator stated, “Her goal has been to push students to have musical experiences that broaden their lives and teach them lessons that you can’t learn anywhere else. Whether it is a student learning from the beginning, or vocalists who have been trained and practicing for a lifetime, Jennifer has a way of inspiring them to be more.”

Her dedication to teaching students about all types of music, her diligence in finding opportunities for students to perform and her willingness to mentor new teachers were cited by several nominators. One shared, “She is always looking for new and inventive strategies to bring back to her classroom and wow her students with. She is a leader in the building and in the district and is always willing to lend a hand anywhere needed.”

Another nominator notes, “It wasn’t until Becca started in Jennifer’s class that we truly saw her begin to blossom. Not only did she grow in her vocal abilities, she matured into a poised, graceful, confident young person eager to take on new challenges and soar to new heights.”

Akers serves as the Lakota Education Association (LEA) representative for Hopewell Junior and is on the Building Leadership Team. She is involved with Lakota’s Resident Educator program and with the West Chester Symphony.

Sorrell, who has been a teacher for the Lakota school district for 38 years, was nominated for the “patience and kindness she shows to each child. She strives to have a close connection with parents so as to be available to help each student progress to their fullest while in her class.”

Another nominator states, “She always does the extra things to make learning fun and interesting for her students. She helps develop her student’s critical thinking skills and is a leader who is always willing to help others whenever she can.”

During her time as a Kindergarten and now first-grade teacher, Sorrell “not only teaches early literacy and math skills, but instills in students lifelong learning skills. She has taught two generations of several Lakota students.”

In addition to her classroom work, nominators cited Sorrell’s philanthropic activities, including teaching children from a distressed Hamilton neighborhood on Sunday mornings, and even offering a room and food in her family’s home for someone experiencing a difficult time.

In addition to the 2017 Educator of Excellence recipients, the following Lakota staff members were nominated for the award:

Elementary Finalists (PreK-6)
     •   Beth Bonin  – Freedom Elementary

  • Kara Dickerson – Endeavor Elementary
  • Jeff Daughtery – Endeavor Elementary
  • Tony Jones – Union Elementary
  • Debbie Pierce – Endeavor Elementary
  • Jeff Redwine – Cherokee Elementary
  • Christy Williams  – Independence Elementary

Secondary Finalists (7-12)
     •  Kenneth Cowan – Liberty Junior High

  • Mike Dwyer – Lakota East High
  • Marcie Fitzwater – Plains Junior High
  • Kelley Kruback – Career Readiness Academy
  • Jeff Nation – Plains Junior High
  • Aaron Nunley – Plains Junior High
  • Carrie Oglesby – Plains Junior High
  • Patti Toman – Lakota East High


  • Lisa Whiles – all Lakota schools, media centers