Chagrin Falls Schools Salutes Teacher and Staff Employee of the Year

At the August 15 staff convocation meeting, Chagrin Falls Schools surprised two staff members with one of the highest awards given by the District.  Mike Sweeney, a math teacher at Chagrin Falls High School, is the Teacher of the Year.  In addition to being a teacher, he is the varsity baseball coach, assistant varsity basketball coach, and eighth-grade football coach.  The Staff Employee of the Year is Nicole (Niki) Lustig, an aide at Chagrin Falls High School.

Niki Lustig

Director of Pupil Services Jennifer Bencko presented the award to Lustig.  She received 13 nominations.  In presenting Lustig with the award, Bencko said, “Kind, hardworking, supportive, dedicated, humble, genuine, an unsung hero. I could spend the entire morning listing positive adjectives that I would choose to describe this year’s Staff Employee of the Year.  However, my opinion is not just my own.  In fact, all those that have worked with this person would echo my words. Lustig has been described as “effective, efficient, able to balance diverse personalities, staying calm under sometimes stressful situations, culture builder, stabilizing force, resource for all, and an integral member of the team.   

Highlights of her nominations state…

“I can’t believe this person has never won this award before.  Her positive attitude lifts me and the students up.”  

“She deserves this recognition even though she would never seek it out on her own.  She is not boastful and does not seek praise.  She simply does her job the best she can.”  

“She is all around kind, caring and thoughtful.  She goes above and beyond for staff and her special education students.  She is simply AMAZING”.  

Bencko continued, “When you think about how many students and staff this person has worked in her 16 years in the District, it is not surprising that the nominations were plentiful.  Let me ask you a question, can you describe the process of mitosis and meiosis?  Can you balance chemical equations, can you explain erosion to a struggling student?  Well if you can’t, it’s okay because this person can.  In fact, this person has taken some of our high school science classes 6, 7, 8 times or more.  Why you ask, because this person is an educational aide, who comes to work each and every day, to support struggling learners, helping them have a positive school experience.  She is an educator who just gets it.”

Mike Sweeney

Athletic Director Charlie Barch presented Sweeney, who has been a math teacher at Chagrin Falls High School for 23 years, with his award.  He said, “He has coached at Chagrin for the same amount of time. Everytime I talk with our parents, they mention what a great coach he is, but they almost always mention what a great teacher he is as well. When I am walking with him in the halls, all the students are quick to say hello to him. Many times at the end of the school year, alumni come back and always want to stop by and say hi to him.”

Highlights of his nominations state…

”If there was an unsung hero at the high school, he would be it. Not only does he coach, he teaches many challenging classes. When commenting about being busy, he shared that he has students come in before school, during tiger period, lunch time, and labs on a regular basis.” 

“He has the unique talent to be able to challenge the most advanced students while reaching the struggling learners.”