PSEA's 2012 Celebrating Excellence Award Winners
Learn more about the awards at www.psea.org/celebratingexcellence. Nomination materials for 2013 Adler Friend of Education Award and Human and Civil Rights Awards will be available August 2012.
Student Leader Award
2011 GLSEN Student Advocate of the year
"High school students change drastically, whether it is the color of their hair or the shoes that they wear. Some of us grow to be the people we have always been, who we always have been waiting to be. And in the end, this is the simple fact that makes us stronger, more courageous, and better prepared to tackle the hardships in our community than we ever thought possible."
A senior at Trinity High School in Washington, PA, Emmett Patterson is a leader and a resource for his classmates and community by ensuring that safe schools are guaranteed for every student. In April 2011, Emmett co-founded Trinity High School’s Gay-Straight-Alliance (GSA), the first student club of its kind in Washington County. In addition to leading Trinity High School’s GSA, Emmett is involved in a wide range of school activities. An honors student, Emmett is chief photo editor for his high school’s yearbook, and a member of the high school swim team. Emmett is also a cellist in his community’s symphony orchestra, and is involved in Washington Community Theatre. He participates in two community centers, including the Persad Center and the Academy for Adolescent Health, where he is a supervisor of the Common Ground Teen Center.
While actively involved in Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in the Pittsburgh area, Emmett found the motivation not only to fight for change in the way lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are treated at Trinity High School, but was also inspired to be more honest with himself about who he really was. In October 2011, Emmett was honored in Los Angeles as the GLSEN Student Advocate of the Year Award. This award honors an outstanding young person whose efforts have helped ensure a safe learning environment for all students, and who has served as a voice of change in their school and their community.
Emmett hopes to draft a new non-discrimination policy for Trinity High School, including gender, gender identity/expression, and sexual orientation along with race, religion, and disability. He plans to pursue a career as a gender and sexuality psychologist.
Educational Leader Award
Dr. Ojoma Edeh Herr
With an infectious soul that has been shared by many people across several continents and cultures, Dr. Ojoma Edeh Herr is a shining example of educational and social excellence. Herr, a faculty member in Millersville University’s Special Education Department, believes strongly in accommodating the needs of all students. She also urges them to think outside the box.
Herr has worked with various organizations to help women and children in her homeland of Nigeria. She saw firsthand the struggles that young people, especially women, face on a daily basis, and was a founder of Ministry of Mercy (MOM), a charitable institution in Nigeria caring for and educating orphans, abandoned babies, epileptics, albinos, and children with other disabilities. Herr also played a major role in the financial support of the orphanage.
Her book, Ojoma’s Song: Becoming a Woman Nigerian Style, focuses on faith, hope, and the determination to survive. The memoir illustrates her inspirational journey about how she became a woman in Nigeria, and the adversities she and other people face. She tells you about her own life experiences, and the cultural expectations of her people as she grew into adulthood.
Herr’s generosity has extended across gender, national, and racial lines. Over her lifetime, she has demonstrated a passion for improving the quality of life for all.
Educational Leader Award
IU #4 Midwestern ESP
Members of the IU #4 Midwestern ESP Service Project Committee (Deborah Antonelli, Cheryl Karns, April Kisamore, Dianne Sederland, Cathy Stiffy, Melanie Turner and Donna Ureyare) are responsible for planning, coordinating, monitoring, and executing monthly projects devoted to giving back to the area.
The seven members of the Service Project Committee have organized the rest of the Midwestern IU #4 into activities that benefit many different community agencies. These members organize monthly projects that raise money for groups such as the Grove City Volunteer Fire Department, the American Heart Association, and the Grove City Medical Center. Other monthly events have included collecting art supplies for the Head Start Classroom, and books for the local day care.
This team effort supports the mission of the Midwestern Intermediate Union by strengthening the organizational culture, while also providing a monthly opportunity to come together for the common good. At a time when community awareness and appreciation of public employees are so important, the Service Project Committee has developed a positive way for the employees to advance meaningful projects.
Each month, a different project is planned and organized by the committee. In the four years since the inception of the project, the IU has been linked with a variety of organizations and agencies. The community involvement enables the IU to unite with other agencies and programs that support the families and students the IU serves.
Local Association-Region Award
PSEA Northwestern Region
Erie’s John Kanzius was a radio and TV engineer, a station owner, a ham radio enthusiast, and an inventor. He was also a man facing a life threatening disease.
While sitting in a hospital waiting room about to undergo yet another chemotherapy treatment to combat leukemia, Kanzius wasn’t thinking of himself. He was looking at the faces of the children undergoing the same treatment, and thought, “there has to be a better way.”
That “better way” turned out to be the Kanzius Non-Invasive Radio Wave Treatment – a machine that uses radio waves and gold nanoparticles to target and destroy cancer cells. It is non-invasive, has no side effects, and has been 100 percent successful in destroying human pancreatic cancer cells in live animals.
Nearly four years ago, the officers of Northwestern Region were determined to become involved in a positive community effort. They thought of the one disease that seemed to touch the lives of nearly every family, colleague, and student they knew: cancer.
They dedicated their efforts to raising funding and awareness for the Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation, a non-profit organization made up of individuals supporting ongoing research for radio wave treatment project.
Members across Northwestern Region have embraced the Kanzius mission, and have worked tirelessly to raise money for the research, as well as to “Spread the Wave” educating others about the treatment. Beginning with sharing information at meetings and hosting a table at the NEA-RA in New Orleans, Northwestern Region has raised more than $5,000, as well as educating hundreds about the treatment.
This year, the program was expanded into the schools. With the support from Northwestern Region, the Kanzius project will continue to bring hope to so many affected by cancer.
Community Leader Award
Donna Watkins will “Bug You to Read!” Since 2006, Donna’s literacy program has distributed more than 10,000 books to the public. Known as the ‘Bug Lady’ or ‘Reading Bee,’ she came up with the idea to boost students’ reading skills when her son’s elementary class needed help with its reading scores. Donna visits classrooms throughout the York area and motivates students to read.
She says, “My bugs are fake, as you guys know, but reading helps your mind grow.” To connect with older students, Donna dresses as a homeless person to show them that without an education, a successful future is not guaranteed. She encourages the importance of an education and stresses that without reading, you can’t get through life.
With help and support from the community, Donna works with local schools and businesses to promote literacy throughout York County. Donna has been recognized for her efforts by numerous organizations including Country Meadows of York, the York City Human Relations Commission, City School District of York, and was a Jefferson Award winner in 2011 for exemplifying extraordinary public service in the Susquehanna Valley. Donna was also awarded the Southern Region PSEA Friend of Education Award for her support of public school education.
Outside Donna’s home are plastic tubs filled with books. A sign says “Be a Reader! Love to Read! Free Books!” Anyone is welcome to stop by and take a book (or two!) to read. For each book, someone takes, Donna gives them a toy insect with the word “Read” written on it. Donna piles books into shopping carts, dresses as the Reading Bug and visits area shopping malls, stores, and camps distributing books and delivering her message – “Be educated! Read!” Donna’s passion is education. Lifelong learning involves a love of reading.