Neag School Highlights Educators, Leaders for 2016 Teacher Appreciation Week

Editor’s Note: In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we invite you to show your appreciation for educators and leaders like those featured below by offering your support for Neag School student scholarships that will help to fund those who aspire to serve in the field of education. To learn more about additional scholarships and giving opportunities related to the Neag School, contact Heather McDonald at for more information. 


The Neag School ranks today among the top 20 public graduate schools of education in the country, providing a wide range of academic programs in teacher preparation, educational leadership, and educational psychology.

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2-6, 2016), the Neag School of Education is paying tribute to a selection of our most outstanding leaders in the field — including not only schoolteachers, but also those individuals who have gone on to serve in other capacities as educational leaders.

To offer a glimpse into the positive impact that education professionals from the Neag School are making in their respective fields, featured here are excerpts from this year’s Neag School Alumni Awards nominations, highlighting the stellar work of each of our 2016 Alumni Award honorees.

Neag_Awards_201-casualDr. Scott R. McCarthy
Outstanding Early Career Professional
Program director of special education and student services
Darien Public Schools

“Scott is not only an exemplary psychologist, but also has provided leadership to both general and special educators on his team. He is always insightful and reflective about his practice and is willing to try new approaches to assist students become more successful socially and academically. Scott truly understands the science of behavior, but applies the principles with compassion and empathy for all involved. He is always willing to ‘practice what he preaches’ and never recommends any strategy that he is not willing and able to demonstrate and implement himself.”

— Mary P. Forde
Director of pupil personnel services
Greenwich Public Schools

Neag_Awards_114-casualJeffrey A. Spivey
Outstanding School Educator
Challenge and enrichment program teacher
Coventry Public Schools

“Jeff is an extremely dedicated and diligent educator whose excellence is demonstrated in both the classroom and community. He is an enthusiastic and passionate educator who brings out the best in the students of Coventry Public Schools with whom he has worked. The dedication and commitment he has shown to the students of our district is truly admirable. He is an excellent role model for students and educators alike.”

— David J. Petrone
Superintendent of schools
Coventry Public Schools

Neag_Awards_107-casualGayle Allen-Greene
Outstanding Administrator
Executive principal
Bulkeley High School and Culinary Arts Academy at Weaver High School

“Gayle Allen-Greene exemplifies what it means to be an outstanding administrator. Every person matters to Gayle. Her beliefs that every child can learn and that every child deserves an outstanding teacher remain strong … Her greatest achievement and pride lies in her students, past and present. Watching Gayle in action in her school is something special. She can carry on a conversation about a new initiative while waving to a parent and pausing to commend a student on their performance in a basketball game. The Hartford community is very fortunate to have had Gayle teach and lead for nearly four decades.”

 — René Roselle
Associate director of teacher education
Neag School of Education

Salvatore Menzo.Dr. Salvatore F. Menzo
Outstanding School Superintendent
Superintendent of schools
Wallingford Public Schools

“For the past seven years, Sal has been the humble, passionate, hands-on education leader of the Wallingford Public Schools, a system of 6,000-plus students and over 600 faculty. [His] boundless energy is demonstrated constantly, and his knowledge and vision toward educational excellence is remarkable. Daily, Sal demonstrates the attributes of an outstanding school superintendent. He cares deeply about students who face learning challenges due to social, emotional, cognitive, physical, and/or environmental factors, and he has personally devoted time to facilitate the implementation of Intervention practices for all PreK-12 students.”

— Paul Flinter
Director of adult education
Wallingford Adult Education

Neag_Awards_245casual 2Dr. Harold F. Abeles
Outstanding Higher Education Professional
Professor of music and music education
Co-director of the Center for Arts Education Research
Teachers College, Columbia University

“Hal has been a strong and consistent force for excellence in education at every level for nearly 50 years. His influence is measured in myriad ways – in research projects that have set the agenda for inquiry in the field, in his administrative presence at the college, in programmatic development, and in publications that continue to shape the thinking of new scholars of music education. In addition, he has sponsored 120 dissertations to date, suggesting that his impact will be felt for decades to come. Hal Abeles is the consummate professor, a person of the highest character who continues to pursue knowledge and transform lives.”

— Lori A. Custodero
Associate professor and program coordinator, Music and Music Education
Teachers College, Columbia University

Neag_Awards_252-casualDr. Kelli-Marie Vallieres
Outstanding Professional
President and CEO
Sound Manufacturing, Inc.

“While many workforce re-development efforts focus on traditional training and development strategies, Kelli-Marie Vallieres employed the knowledge and skills she developed as a master’s and doctoral student at Neag to craft personalized, action-oriented, organization-wide learning strategies that motivated her workers and captured and transformed their knowledge and expertise. Her approach is held up in industry as an innovative, hands-on approach to organizational learning and transformation. Kelli-Marie’s leadership in education, particularly in P-20 technical education, is an action-oriented application of the values of the Neag School. She tackles important challenges in employment, economic growth, and education-business partnerships, and she’s recognized as a thinker, doer, and leader.”

— Marijke Kehrhahn
Associate professor
Neag School of Education

Neag_Awards_124-web-casualDr. Karissa L. Niehoff
Distinguished Alumna of the Year
Executive director
Connecticut Association of Schools

“To Dr. Niehoff, students, teachers, coaches, and administrators all deserve the chance to try, grow, fail, succeed, and reach their full potential, both inside the classroom and out. It’s a belief she’s personified since her first job as a physical education teacher at Connecticut’s Greenwich High School, and that has continued over the past 27 years, resulting in successes as a personal wellness teacher; volleyball, softball, basketball, track and field hockey coach; and as deputy director of the CAS-CIAC before being named its first-ever woman director. She’s tackled topics as varied as improving teaching and learning strategies; and strengthening our educational leaders by establishing such pioneering programs the executive principal coaching program. Consistently energetic. Highly engaged. Always positive. Dr. Niehoff is a distinguished leader in education.

 — Robert Villanova
Program director, Executive Leadership Program
Neag School of Education