Neag Alumni Society Recognizes Outstanding Graduates

Bottom row, L-R: Jennifer C. Nelson (outstanding early career professional), NiCole Keith (outstanding kinesiology professional), Felice Duffy (outstanding professional), Sandra Bidwell (outstanding educator), Sally Reis (outstanding higher education professional); top row, L-R: Michael L. Reed (outstanding physical therapy professional), Louis F. DeLoreto (outstanding school administrator), Dean Thomas C. DeFranco, Jon Welty Peachy (outstanding early career professional), Paul S. Freeman (outstanding superintendent), and Robert C. Pianta (outstanding alumni).
Bottom row, L-R: Jennifer Nelson (outstanding early career professional), NiCole Keith (outstanding kinesiology professional), Felice Duffy (outstanding professional), Sandra Bidwell (outstanding educator), Sally Reis (outstanding higher education professional); top row, L-R: Michael Reed (outstanding physical therapy professional), Louis DeLoreto (outstanding school administrator), Dean Thomas DeFranco, Jon Welty Peachy (outstanding early career professional), Paul Freeman (outstanding superintendent), and Robert Pianta (outstanding alumni).

Outstanding Alumni Recognized by the Neag School of Education

The Neag School of Education Alumni Society and the faculty of the Neag School of Education recognized outstanding alumni at the 16th Annual Awards Dinner on Saturday, March 22, 2014 at UConn.

“The evening was memorable as faculty and alumni gathered to formally recognize the achievements of some of our outstanding graduates,” said Dean Thomas C. DeFranco. “The award recipients are educators and health professionals who have made significant contributions across all levels of education.”

“The Neag School of Education is proud of all the recipients and their individual accomplishments,” he continued. “Congratulations to all of our honorees.”



Outstanding Early Career Professional

Jennifer C. Nelson – Special Education Teacher in Ridgefield Public Schools in Ridgefield, CT.

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Nelson received her BS in special education in 2009 and MA in special education in 2010 from the Neag School of Education. Nelson currently serves as a special education teacher in Ridgefield Public Schools in Ridgefield, CT.

Working in the RISE program at Scotland Elementary School, Nelson’s responsibility includes creating and initiating a specialized program for students with autism, oppositional defiant disorder, speech and language impairment, hearing impairment, visual impairment, developmental delay and multiple disabilities. She also collaborates with administrators, teachers, related service providers and students in designing and implementing district and school wide programs and interventions to promote positive student behavior.

Nelson’s extensive experiences from student teaching, summer internship, paraprofessional and clinic placement brought her to schools in varied districts in the state, including Montville, Hartford, Willington, North Windham and Willimantic. Nelson is expected to graduate from the Applied Behavior Analysis Professional Development Program at Florida Institute of Technology. She holds a positive behavior supports certification gained from Neag School of Education in 2010.

Outstanding Early Career Professional

Jon Welty Peachey – Assistant Professor in the Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism at the University of Illinois.

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A 2009 Ph.D. alumnus in sport management, Welty Peachey is an assistant professor in the Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism at the University of Illinois. His research centers upon sport-for-development and social change, particularly examining inclusive leadership strategies, program design modalities, and program impact.

Welty Peachey’s research interests arise from his years of work with the Institute for International Sport as vice president of international operations and program development. From 2001 to 2007, he oversaw program development, implementation and event operations for 35 international programs in 15 countries, including successfully leading the organization of the 2006 World Scholar-Athlete Games, which brought together 3,000 athletes and 800 coaches and volunteers from 185 countries for 10 days of competition at 32 venues.

Transitioning into the academic world, he continues to combine his work experience and research focus to help developing community-based organizations including Street Soccer USA, a sport-for- development program using the power of soccer to help homeless men and women enhance their quality of life.

Welty Peachey’s work and research on sport for social and attitudinal change has brought him to countries including Greece, Germany and Cyprus as a guest lecturer and event management consultant.

Outstanding Kinesiology Professional

NiCole R. Keith – Research Scientist at Indiana University Center for Aging Research; Investigator in Regenstrief Institute Incorporated; and Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis.

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Keith received her Ph.D. in exercise physiology from Neag School of Education’s Kinesiology Program in 1999. She is a research scientist at Indiana University Center for Aging Research and Investigator in Regenstrief Institute. She also holds the position of associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University-Purdue University.

Keith’s research interest focuses on obesity, nutrition and cardiovascular physical fitness, examining various demographic groups especially for under-represented minorities. She has received grants and funding from varied governmental and sports medicine organizations including National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institute on Aging, and National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

Keith is the founder of the mentoring program of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the world’s largest sports medicine professional organization. As a fellow of ACSM, Keith organized the Leadership & Diversity Training Program, aiming to mentor and retain underrepresented minority members by recruiting more members from historically black colleges and universities, supporting underrepresented minority members’ involvement at ACSM meetings, and pursuit of ACSM professional presentations, publications and fellowship.  Keith was a member of the Next Generation – Leadership Program for Faculty of Color at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis and the Dean’s List for Outstanding Professional Accomplishments at the University of Rhode Island.

Outstanding Physical Therapy Professional

Michael L. Reed – Director of HSS Florida and HSS Spine & Sport, Hospital for Special Surgery, NYC.

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Reed received his BS in physical therapy (summa cum laude) from the Neag School of Education in 1989. He received his MS and Ph.D. in physical therapy at the University of St. Augustine, before establishing his own private practice physical therapy clinics. He currently serves as the director of Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) Florida, HSS Spine & Sport in NYC.

Reed is a member of the Continuing Medical Education Committee of the American Spine Society, and co-chair for the Society’s 28th annual meeting. Although not in academia, Reed continues to explore his research interest in physical therapy in the academic arena. His paper “Perioperative Perspective of Spine Surgeons” won the North American Spine Society’s Best Paper Award in 2009.

Reed’s particular interest in the field is the outcomes of patients with orthopedic problems. He is the founder and chairman of the Commitment to Outcomes Partnership and Surgical Outcome Support. Reed is also actively involved with the National Orthopedic Physical Therapy Outcomes Database of the American Physical Therapy Association.

Reed keeps excelling himself through continued education courses and self-directed learning activities. He is a licensed physical therapist, a board certified specialist in orthopedic physical therapy, a certified manual therapist, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, a certified pilates-based rehabilitation practitioner, and a certified gyrotonic instructor. Reed is currently an MBA student at the University of Miami. He is also a graduate of Dale Carnegie Skills for Success with Highest Award for Achievement in 2012.

Outstanding School Educator

Sandra M. Bidwell – Reading Recovery Teacher and Reading and Writing Instructional Support Teacher at Staffordville Elementary School in Staffordville, CT.

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Bidwell is a reading recovery teacher and reading and writing instructional support teacher at Staffordville Elementary School, Staffordville, CT. She started her career as a mathematics teacher at Assumption Jr. High, Manchester, CT before transitioning to teaching reading and mathematics for Stafford Schools, where she has continued to teach since 1986.

Bidwell earned a master’s degree in education in 1987 and a sixth year degree in professional education and reading in 1991 from the Neag School. Being a reading specialist for two decades, Bidwell has published multiple articles on using drama to improve motivation, comprehension and fluency, particularly for disabled readers. She actively serves as a beginning educator support team and teacher education and mentoring program mentor to numerous student teachers and beginning teachers. She also leads the district’s New Teacher Committee.

When she’s not teaching in the classroom, Bidwell actively volunteers within the community, including leading the community group at Staffordville School Parent Teacher Organization to develop surveys on improving home/school communication. Bidwell’s work earned her to present at the National Conference of the International Reading Association and an award from Connecticut Reading Association for Excellence in Teaching Reading in 2012. She was Stafford’s Teacher of the Year in 2011.

Outstanding School Administrator

Louis F. DeLoreto – Principal of Edwin O. Smith High School (Region 19) in Mansfield, CT.

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DeLoreto earned his sixth year certificate in educational leadership in 2000 and a Ph.D. in educational administration in 2012 from Neag School of Education. He has served as the principal of Edwin O. Smith High School (Region 19) in Mansfield, CT. since 2001.

Centered around students “at risk”, DeLoreto’s work in the past 12 ½ years has increased students’ SAT participation and performance levels, and increased post-secondary enrollment among graduates at E.O Smith. As one of the first schools in Connecticut to adopt the Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) model, under DeLoreto’s leadership E.O. Smith has significantly reduced the number of disciplinary infractions and administrative sanctions placed on students. He is currently working to make E.O. Smith High School a leading institution in personalizing the educational experience for its students and providing multiple pathways to success.

DeLoreto started his career as a social studies teacher at Hartford Public High School from 1993 to 1995, and at East Harford High School from 1995 to 1999, before serving as an assistant principal at Wethersfield High School at Wethersfield, CT for three years. DeLoreto has been a regular presenter at New England Secondary School Consortium (NESSC) conferences. He is also a founding member of the League of Innovative Schools, a regional professional learning community for New England secondary schools.

Outstanding School Superintendent

Paul S. Freeman – Superintendent of Guilford Public Schools in Guilford, CT.

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Freeman has served as the superintendent of Guilford Public Schools in Guilford, CT since November 2011. His work in Guilford – which has earned him the respect of colleagues, faculty, parents and students – has included efforts in advocating for extensive embedded professional development, expanding in-house special education services in order to improve the quality of learning for students with special needs, and working to thoughtfully shape and adopt changes in a teacher evaluation system that will support teachers and facilitate deep levels of student learning moving forward.

A Connecticut educator for 20 years, Freeman started his career teaching middle and high school English in Woodbridge, CT and later moved to an administrative role as an assistant principal in East Lyme in 1998. From there he progressed to principal and assistant superintendent. He served as superintendent in Griswold from 2009 to 2011.

Freeman graduated from Neag School of Education in 2009 with an Ed.D. in educational leadership. He has been a professor of practice in the school’s Executive Leadership Program and Five Year Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s Program since then.  He is a member of a team of professors currently developing a partnership with Queen Rania’s Teachers’ Academy in Aman Jordan, bringing UConn’s principal preparation program, for the first time, into the Middle East.

Freeman also actively serves as an executive board member of LEARN, a regional educational service center serving 25 school districts in southeastern/shoreline Connecticut. In 2010, Freeman received the James P. Garvin Distinguished Service Award from the New England League of Middle Schools.

Outstanding Higher Education Professional

Sally M. Reis – Vice Provost for Academic Affairs; Letitia Neag Morgan Chair in Educational Psychology; and Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, UConn

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Having graduated in 1981 from the Neag School of Education with a Ph.D. in education psychology, Reis started her teaching career at UConn in the same year. Before joining UConn, she served as an educator and administrator in the Torrington Connecticut school district for 10 years. Reis is best known for her world-renowned research and tireless advocacy for academically talented and high potential students through the Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. Reis is currently the University’s vice provost for academic affairs, along with being a professor in educational psychology, and institute co-director of Confratute – Summer Institute on Enrichment Learning and Teaching.

Reis has been recognized numerous times for her exceptional talent, including being recognized with the International Award for Research from the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children in 2013 and she was named Educator of the Year by Connecticut ASCD (the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) in 2010. She is a distinguished scholar of the National Association for Gifted Children and a fellow of the American Psychological Association, two of the highest honors in her field. She is also a Teaching Fellow and Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor at UConn, two of the University’s highest honors for faculty.

Reis has traveled extensively across the country and internationally conducting workshops and providing professional development for school districts on enrichment programs and talent development programs.

Outstanding Professional

Felice M. Duffy – Assistant United States Attorney at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut in New Haven, CT.

Video of Felice

Duffy received her MA in sport psychology in 1985 and Ph.D. in sport psychology in 1991 from the Neag School of Education. She also received her BA in psychology in 1982 at UConn. Duffy has served as the Assistant United States Attorney at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut in New Haven, CT since 2005.

Duffy went on to captain the team for five years, and was named twice the “most valuable player.” She was selected for the All-American first team in 1981 and later inducted into the Connecticut Soccer Hall of Fame. Duffy also served as the head women’s soccer coach at Yale University from 1985 to 1995, where she was instrumental in developing the team into one of the most competitive teams in New England and nationally.

A civil rights activist at heart, Duffy graduated first in her class with a JD degree from Quinnipiac University School of Law in 1999. As the assistant United States attorney, she prosecutes criminal cases including money-laundering, cybercrime, violations of environmental laws, drug trafficking organizations, and white collar government fraud, among others.

Duffy is active in crime prevention and helping former prisoners avoid re-incarceration. The focus of her recent outreach efforts has been helping women avoid involvement in crimes committed by their husbands or boyfriends, and she was part of a group that created a 30-minute docudrama on the subject. Duffy was the recipient of National Organization for Women Alice Paul Award for Advocacy for the Advancement of Women in 2007.

Distinguished Alumni of the Year

Dr. Robert C. Pianta – Dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia

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Known as a nationally recognized expert in early childhood education and K-12 teaching and learning, Pianta is the Dean of Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. He also holds positions as the Novartis Professor of Education and Founding Director of the Curry School’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning. Pianta received his B.S. in 1977 and M.A. in 1978 in special education from the Neag School of Education.

Pianta is the creator of an observational assessment of teacher-student interactions known as the Classroom Assessment Scoring System™ or CLASS, which has been used by every Head Start program in the country, affecting 50,000 teachers and over half a million students. He also developed My Teaching Partner™ or MTP, a series of professional development supports engineered to improve teachers’ effectiveness in the classroom.

Pianta is the author of more than 250 articles, 50 book chapters, and 11 books, and has been a principal investigator on research and training grants totaling over $55 million. He served as the editor of the Journal of School Psychology from 1997 to 2007.

The Washington Post calls him “one of America’s smartest educational scholars.” In addition, Pianta was named one of the “Most Influential Scholars in Education Policy” on 2013 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Presence Ranking by Education Week. He was also named one of the “Most Highly Cited Researchers of 2012” in the area of Psychology/Psychiatry by Web of Science (ISI). Pianta regularly consults with federal agencies and foundations including National Early Education Council, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Louisiana State Department of Education and Head Start National Research Advisory Board.