Members of the Neag School of Education Alumni Society, as well as faculty, staff, and administrators of the Neag School of Education gathered this past Saturday on the UConn Storrs campus with the 2016 Alumni Awards honorees and their guests for the 18th Annual Alumni Awards Celebration. Seven outstanding Neag School graduates were recognized at the event.
“Each of our 2016 awardees embodies a tremendous sense of professional dedication as well as a commitment to going above and beyond his or her traditional job description,” says Dean Richard Schwab. “Interestingly, every one of our honorees this year currently works in the state of Connecticut – which is yet one more source of immense pride for us, to have these exceptional graduates going on to serve so admirably in such a wide variety of capacities across our state.”
Outstanding Early Career Professional Award
Dr. Scott R. McCarthy – Program director of special education and student services for Darien (Conn.) Public Schools
Dr. Scott R. McCarthy earned four degrees from UConn, beginning with his BS in 2008 in psychology. He later received from the Neag School his MA and 6th Year Diploma, followed by his Ph.D. in educational psychology, with a concentration in school psychology. McCarthy is currently program director of special education and student services for Darien (Conn.) Public Schools.
McCarthy assumed the role of program director in Darien this past November. Prior to his role in Darien, McCarthy was a school psychologist for Greenwich Public Schools, where he not only supported students, but also was responsible for the planning and professional learning of psychologists and social workers. His involvement in the district was extensive, as he ran an after-school videogame club and tutoring program, and was a member of the Crisis Team, Student Assistance Team, and District Anti-Bullying Committee, and chair of the Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) Committee.
Outstanding School Educator Award
Jeffrey A. Spivey – Challenge and enrichment program teacher at Coventry (Conn.) Public Schools
Jeffrey A. Spivey graduated magna cum laude from UConn’s Neag School with a BS in elementary education before continuing on to receive his MA in education. Spivey is currently a challenge and enrichment program (CEP) teacher at Coventry (Conn.) Public Schools.
Spivey has instituted programs in technology and gifted and talented education, as well as created and managed a Student IT Help Desk for Coventry High School, which expanded learning opportunities by incorporating innovative technologies with class curriculum. He also developed the Coventry Future Problem Solving Program for middle and high school students that sent several Coventry students to the International Convention.
In addition to his role in the Coventry school district as a CEP teacher, Spivey serves as a middle school instructor and coach and as the district’s education and technology coach. He has been the leader in implementing innovative technologies into Coventry classrooms, including Google Classroom and iPads. As a talented videographer, he also captures video of school events and meetings and produces a morning news show with his students.
Outstanding School Administrator Award
Gayle Allen-Greene – Executive principal at Bulkeley High School and Culinary Arts Academy at Weaver, both in Hartford, Conn.
Gayle Allen-Greene completed her BA and MA at Springfield College before receiving her Executive Leadership Program Certificate from the Neag School in 2009. Allen-Greene is currently executive principal at Bulkeley High School and Culinary Arts Academy at Weaver, both in Hartford. She began her career in the Hartford Public School district 37 years ago as a physical education teacher and coach.
Allen-Greene has instituted several programs to improve education for minority students and student retention rates. During her tenure as principal, she has improved graduation rates from an average of 29 percent to 73 percent. Despite budget constraints, she was instrumental in developing Bulkeley’s Teacher Prep and Humanities academies, along with comprehensive advanced placement and early college experience programs. She has redesigned the curriculum to include a student-centered approach to teaching and learning through English language learner instruction and blended learning.
Allen-Greene’s commitment to students’ success extends beyond the classroom to her passion for athletics. She has helped preserve the Bulkeley High School athletic program as one of the founders of the School’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Outstanding School Superintendent Award
Dr. Salvatore F. Menzo – Superintendent of Schools in Wallingford (Conn.) Public Schools
Dr. Salvatore F. Menzo received his MA, 6th Year Diploma, Executive Leadership Program Certificate, and Ed.D. in educational leadership from the Neag School, and a BA from Connecticut College. Since 2009, Menzo has served as superintendent of the Wallingford (Conn.) Public Schools.
The many initiatives Menzo has implemented in the Wallingford school district include the “Wallingford 100” initiative; through funding from donations, Menzo gathered staff members to form a 21st Century Innovation Team, which works toward achieving a 100 percent graduation rate and a 100 percent post-high school success rate for Wallingford students. Menzo has also positioned the district as a leader in personalized learning and implementing Common Core and the teacher evaluation process.
To engage these community stakeholders, Menzo is rarely behind a desk. Instead, he’s visiting classrooms in one of his 12 schools, attending a student sporting event, visiting the senior center, or traveling abroad with students. His transparency and integrity with the Wallingford community have established him as a leader far beyond the school system. Menzo’s leadership at Wallingford also includes his “three words” initiative – each year, he selects three words for staff members to embody. For 2016, Menzo is guiding Wallingford teachers along the road to investigate, inform, and inspire.
Outstanding Higher Education Professional Award
Dr. Harold F. Abeles – Professor of music and music education and co-director of the Center for Arts Education Research at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York, N.Y.
Dr. Harold F. Abeles received his BA and MA in music education from UConn before completing his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland in 1971. For more than 30 years, Abeles has been a professor of music education at the Teachers College of Columbia University, where he also serves as co-director of the Center for Arts Education Research.
Abeles is a distinguished researcher in the field of music education. His early study on the sex stereotyping of music instruments, published in the Journal of Research in Music Education, was the first of its kind to examine students’ and teachers’ perceptions of gender and their impact on music education. His most recent research examines the roles social media and gender stereotyping play in music teacher identity and the formation of professional learning communities.
Abeles’ work is not confined to academia; instead, he works to improve music education for children in schools across the nation. His study guide for HBO’s “Master Class” series, including lesson plans and class activities, is distributed free of charge to middle and high schools in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. He has secured more than $1 million in grants, which he has used to evaluate symphony orchestras’ education programs that provide an arts education for under-served children in Hartford, Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, and New York City.
Outstanding Professional Award
Dr. Kelli-Marie Vallieres – President and CEO of Sound Manufacturing, Inc. in Old Saybrook, Conn.
Dr. Kelli-Marie Vallieres received three UConn degrees, her most recent being a Ph.D. in educational leadership and adult learning from the Neag School in 2007. Prior to her Ph.D., she earned a MA in educational leadership and adult learning from the Neag School and a BS in business management from UConn. Vallieres is the president and CEO of Sound Manufacturing, Inc. in Old Saybrook, a producer of sheet metal. She also serves on the New England Board of Higher Education as the director of the Problem Based Learning Resource Center and the President of the Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Alliance.
In 2009 and 2010, Sound Manufacturing, Inc., faced the risk of a massive downsize. However, due to Vallieres’ knowledge of educational research, the company was not only able to recover, but thrive. Vallieres used insight from employees to determine how to lead her company in a new direction, founding Monster Power Equipment, a company within Sound Manufacturing, Inc. This venture, which was featured on the Discovery Channel’s program “Made in America,” now contributes a third of the two companies’ annual sales and has helped the company increase its workforce by roughly 10 percent this year.
Vallieres implements education practices into her role at Sound Manufacturing, Inc., using problem-based learning (PBL) to promote professional and technical skill development. She accomplishes the PBL approach by helping technical college students land internships and challenging them to solve real-life scenarios in the classroom. Most recently, she implemented a sheet metal manufacturing program at Three Rivers Community College – a trade that is essential to several large-scale Connecticut employers. Vallieres also works with local school systems to implement more STEM skills into the curriculums.
Distinguished Alumna Award
Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff – Executive director for the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS)
Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff earned her Ed.D. in educational leadership from the Neag School at UConn in 2010. Prior to this degree, she earned a BS in physical education from the University of Massachusetts, an MA in school health education from Southern Connecticut State University, and a 6th Year Diploma in educational leadership from Central Connecticut State University. Niehoff is currently the executive director for the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS).
As executive director of CAS (and its first-ever woman director), Niehoff is responsible for all aspects of the organization, including the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, Connecticut Student Activities Conference, and Unified Sports. She is also a member of the National Federation of State High School Association’s Board of Directors. Niehoff has a passion for athletics that extends beyond her roles on various athletic committees. She has fulfilled several roles as a coach, physical education teacher, and personal wellness teacher, as well as co-founder of the National Passing the Torch Academy for Youth Sport Leadership. For six years, she was an integral member of the United States Olympic Committee.
Niehoff’s expertise, passion, and ability to relate to others have made her a renowned keynote speaker and presenter, especially on topics regarding teaching and learning strategies and coaching programs. Some of the distinguished organizations for which she has presented include the Connecticut Department of Education and the National Association for Girls and Women in Sports.