The Rome Commons Ballroom at UConn’s Storrs campus was filled on Saturday evening with Neag School of Education Alumni Board members; Neag School faculty, staff, and administrators; friends of the University; and guests honoring seven distinguished Neag School alumni at the School’s annual Alumni Awards Celebration.
“Tonight, we are celebrating this event for the 21stconsecutive year, thanks to the Neag School Alumni Board. We are grateful to the Board’s past and present members for their continued support in making this annual celebration possible,” said Dean Gladis Kersaint during her welcoming remarks.
Prior to the presentation of the 2019 Alumni Awards, emcee Joseph Macary, three-time Neag School graduate, Alumni Board president, and superintendent of Vernon (Conn.) Public Schools, recognized three additional award recipients on behalf of the Board.
The Neag School Alumni Board Scholarship, funded by Neag School alumni and friends to support students in their higher education pursuits, was presented to two Neag School graduate students, Ashley Robinson, a third-year doctoral student in the learning, leadership, and educational policy program, and Tashua Sotil, a two-time UConn alum currently seeking her sixth-year degree in educational psychology.
In addition, the Alumni Board recognized the recipients of the Dr. Perry A. Zirkel Distinguished Teaching Award, a $1,000 award granted to a Neag School faculty member who demonstrates excellence in teaching, and the 2019 Rogers Educational Innovation Fund Award, a $5,000 award to support an innovative classroom project conducted by one elementary or middle school teacher in Connecticut each year.
Jennie Weiner, assistant professor of educational leadership at the Neag School, received the Dr. Perry A. Zirkel Distinguished Teaching Award.
Two-time Neag School alumna who currently serves as an educator for Norwalk (Conn.) Public Schools, Jessica Stargardter, received the second annual Rogers Award, which will support her project, “An Eye for Change: Real-World Investigations through Photojournalism.” The project will provide students with tools, including disposable cameras, to document challenges and propose solutions within their community.
“The generosity of every one of our benefactors is deeply appreciated,” said Macary. “Their contributions are absolutely vital in providing our talented students, faculty, and members of the educational community with much-needed financial support.”
Following dinner, seven Neag School alumni were recognized in the following categories, with each awardee being featured as part of a special profile video series and then giving brief remarks:
Outstanding Early Career Professional
Victoria M. Schilling ’16 (ED), ’17 MA
Science Teacher, Ellington (Conn.) Middle School
Victoria M. Schilling is a two-time graduate of the Neag School of Education, receiving her bachelor of science in secondary education in 2016 and her master of arts in curriculum and instruction in 2017. During her time as a graduate student, Schilling co-led the UConn Mentor Teacher Collaborative and served as an intern at Mansfield (Conn.) Middle School, where she helped implement units of instruction under Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) into the curriculum.
In addition to serving as a science teacher, Schilling led a middle school curriculum development project at the Neag School this past summer that focused on the Carl and Marian Rettenmeyer Army Aunt Guest Collection funded by the National Science Foundation. Schilling has also co-authored three STEM Teaching Tools for stemteachingtools.org, where she has shared her techniques for implementing NGSS into science curricula.
“When I was in eighth grade, I had a dream to go to UConn and become an eight-grade science teacher — and here we are,” said Schilling during her remarks.
Outstanding School Educator
Deidra Fogarty ’05 (ED), ’06 MA
Special Educator for the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Spring Academy, Washington D.C.
After receiving her bachelor of science in elementary education in 2005 and her master of arts in elementary education in 2006 from the Neag School, Deidra Fogarty moved to Maryland to begin her career as an elementary school educator before moving on to work in literacy coaching and administrative leadership at public schools in Washington, D.C. There, Fogarty now serves as a special educator for the Knowledge is Power Program’s Spring Academy, where she works to ensure student needs are met in special education and general education classrooms.
Fogarty expanded her role in educational leadership by founding Black Girls Teach, an online community for black female educators, as well as co-founding a diverse children’s book subscription with her sister Georgette, which is called WAM! Book Bundleaimed at empowering underrepresented children.
“I remember stepping into the classroom like ‘Wow, OK, I can do this,’ and I felt 100 percent confident and ready — all of this because of my experience here at UConn with the Neag School of Education,” Fogarty told the audience on Saturday.
Outstanding School Administrator
Maureen F. Ruby ’77 (CLAS), ’78 MS, ’82 DMD, ’07 Ph.D.
Assistant Superintendent, Brookfield (Conn.) Public Schools
Maureen Ruby is the assistant superintendent at Brookfield (Conn.) Public Schools, where she oversees the curriculum, instruction, and assessment plans for all K-12 content areas, along with facilitating professional development. In her commitment to support English language learning, special education, and social-emotional learning, Ruby received a $700,000 five-year federal School Improvement Grant for Brookfield High School to implement two academic systems, one for special education and one for reading instruction.
She received her bachelor of science from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1977, master of science at the School of Engineering in 1978, doctorate in dental medicine from the School of Dental Medicine in 1982, and Ph.D. in special education in 2007, all from UConn.
After her career in dentistry, Ruby returned to school to receive a master of science in elementary education from Southern Connecticut State University in 1996. She served as a kindergarten through third-grade teacher at public and private schools across Connecticut prior to holding faculty positions teaching special education courses at three Connecticut universities. She then served in administrative roles at New London and Norwalk (Conn.) Public Schools prior to her current administrative role at Brookfield Public Schools.
“I think that more than the actual learning, it’s the caring that we feel when we work together,” said Ruby as she as she spoke of the relationships with colleagues, parents, and students that she has built at UConn.
Outstanding School Superintendent
Craig A. Cooke ’01 6th Year, ’07 Ph.D.
Superintendent, Windsor (Conn.) Public Schools
Under Craig Cooke’s leadership as the superintendent of Windsor (Conn.) Public Schools, enrollment totals and graduation rates have increased every year for the past five years. Cooke has worked to increase student achievement in Windsor Public Schools by implementing a 1:1 device initiative for all K-12 students and opening the Windsor Public Schools Office of Family Engagement and Community Partnership.
Cooke earned his 6th Year teaching certificate in 2001 and his Ph.D. in educational leadership in 2007, both from UConn’s Neag School. He served as the human resource director for Enfield (Conn.) Public Schools and later as the assistant superintendent of human resources for Windsor Public Schools prior to his current superintendent position.
“UConn has been so instrumental in my life and for education, there was no [other] choice for me when it became time to figure out where I was going to get my Sixth Year and my Doctorate,” says Cooke. “At UConn, I’ve had just tremendous professors and connections.”
Rachel R. McAnallen ’10 Ph.D.
Global Math Educator and Enthusiast, known as ‘Ms. Math’
Rachel McAnallen served as a teacher, a math department chair, a school board member, and a high school administrator before receiving her Ph.D. in educational psychology from UConn’s Neag School at age 75. While at UConn, McAnallen researched math anxiety among educators and now travels the world as ‘Ms. Math’ to share her passion for math and teaching, and to demonstrate ways for students and teachers to reduce math anxiety.
Along with presenting staff development workshops in countries such as Dubai, South Africa, and Canada, McAnallen also presented for many years at UConn’s Confratute,a weeklong event that draws educators from around the world to the Storrs campus.
“For 35 years, UConn has been wonderful to me,” said McAnallen after sharing stories of her mentors at the University.
Outstanding Higher Education Professional
D. Betsy McCoach ’01 MA, ’02 6th Year, ’03 Ph.D.
Professor of Educational Psychology, Neag School of Education
After receiving her master’s degree in 2001, 6th year certificate in school psychology in 2002, and Ph.D. in educational psychology in 2003, all at UConn, D. Betsy McCoach applied to and received a teaching position at UConn’s Neag School. For more than 15 years, McCoach has served as a faculty member in the Neag School’s educational psychology department, teaching graduate-level courses in latent variable modeling, quantitative research methods, measurement, and instrumental design. McCoach is also the coordinator for the Research Methods, Measurement, and Evaluation graduate program at the Neag School.
In addition, McCoach directs two methodological summer conferences at UConn; serves as the co-principal investigator for a $3 million National Science Foundation grant and a $5 million National Center for Research on Gifted Education grant; provides curriculum and instruction support as a member of the Technical Advisory Board for the Educational Records Bureau; and authors educational texts, including 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and 25 book chapters.
“I fell in love with instrument design. I fell in love with latent variables,” joked McCoach on Saturday. “I love gifted education … I love research and research methodology. I love academics. I love higher ed. I love learning, and so I decided to extend my stay [at UConn] and pursue a joint Ph.D. in school psychology and gifted education.”
Carla S. Klein ’72 (ED)
Emeritus UConn Foundation Board Member, Co-Founder of UConn’s Women and Philanthropy Initiative, Retired Teacher, and Philanthropist
Carla S. Klein received her bachelor of science from UConn’s Neag School in 1972 and served as a longtime schoolteacher in the Stratford and Trumbull (Conn.) school systems. Klein was instrumental in enhancing school achievement in Connecticut, serving on the Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement and the Bridgeport Public Education Fund board of directors, as well as being the former co-chair of Operation Respect Connecticut.
Together with her husband, John, former president and CEO of People’s United Bank, Klein supported educational programs across Connecticut, including anti-bullying initiatives. Following her husband’s passing from esophageal cancer in 2008, Klein continues to support educational causes through her role as a philanthropist, a co-founder of UConn’s Women and Philanthropy Initiative, as well as a leader in supporting causes including esophageal cancer research and prevention.
Along with her two children, Eric and Kristen, Klein established the Klein Family Scholarship Fund, which, beginning this fall, will provide financial support to academically talented Neag School students who wish to pursue a career in teaching.
“UConn was always at the top of the list as a university that I would want to continue to give to,” Klein shared on Saturday. “I couldn’t be happier to support professors and students, and I think it’s so important now because students, especially women, start out a new job and they have this huge bill to pay for their education, so it’s a wonderful way for me to give back.”