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Oct. Educator Spotlight: Knapp & Surniak

Oct. Educator Spotlight: Knapp & Surniak

Congratulations to our October Educator Spotlight honorees, Harding Middle School health teacher Teri Knapp and Lakewood High School cleaner Dan Surniak! Click on Read More to find out why these two outstanding staff members have been singled out by their peers.



With her focus on relationship building, Harding Middle School health teacher Teri Knapp naturally embodies many of our Vision of an Educator qualities. Building good connections requires plenty of communication, collaboration, and of course, empathy. 

“Developing relationships with each student is paramount to getting them to buy into what I’m teaching,” says Teri, who is in her 23rd year with the District. 

What Teri is teaching is how to live a healthy, fulfilling life. She feels grateful to be able to teach a subject that affects every person deeply and she generously shares her personal health stories in order to demonstrate real life scenarios and consequences. Sharing helps create the “circle of trust” Teri aims to cultivate with her classes that leads to students to feeling comfortable sharing as well.

Teri’s nominator, paraprofessional Genevieve Mehok, noted that Teri’s ability to be open-minded, not stereotype students, and always welcome different perspectives, are great examples of embodying the global citizen/awareness competency. These qualities also carry over into Teri’s work with Harding’s Be That Person Club, which she and counselor Lyndie Schuckert co-founded to help foster tolerance and a sense of community among students.. 

Teri is not only focused on the health and well-being of her students, but her colleagues as well. She is proud of her efforts as her building’s Vitality wellness program leader. Through her many Vision of a Lakewood Educator qualities, Teri has helped create a welcoming and healthy at Harding.




Working as a cleaner at Lakewood High School was not on Dan Surniak’s radar as far as job options after his decades-long career in the insurance industry ended. However, six years into the job, Dan couldn’t be happier. 

Dan, who is also a deacon in his church, finds the credo of service he follows in his spiritual life applies to his job with the District as well.

“Our job as custodial staff is to prepare the school so teachers can come in and do their job,” Dan says. And he is willing to do whatever is needed of him to do so. 

He exhibits many of our Vision of a Lakewood Educator qualities, including being a great communicator who has built great relationships with his colleagues and always offers his co-workers and students a smile and friendly greeting.

According to his supervisor, Director of Operations Chris Donahoe, Dan’s collaboration skills help the operations of his department. Examples are his willingness to be flexible in his day whether it is by adjusting his schedule to accommodate staffing shortages or making adjustments in his duties to help in areas outside his responsibilities when needed.

In a span of 3 ½ months, Dan went from summer help, to part time, to full time, something he is very proud of. Both Dan and the District couldn’t be more pleased with the way things have worked out.