Meet the winners: 2013 PSEA Celebrating Excellence Awards
Recipients of PSEA's 2013 Adler Friend of Education Award and PSEA Human & Civil Rights Awards were honored at PSEA's Celebrating Excellence Dinner on May 16.
Adler Friend of Education
Fritz Heinemann, CEO
As the President and CEO of EconomicsPennsylvania, Fritz Heinemann dedicated his career to bringing economic education and financial literacy to the students of Pennsylvania. Under Heinemann's tenure, EconomicsPennsylvania grew to be a nationally recognized provider of economic education and the largest not-for-profit partnership of education, business, and labor in Pennsylvania.
Heinemann's responsibilities at EconomicsPennsylvania include managing the fundraising, marketing, and planning aspects of the organization as well as researching program activities. He made certain that EconomicsPennsylvania's mission “to ensure that every young person in Pennsylvania understands essential economic and financial literacy concepts, benefits by using economic ways of thinking and problem-solving skills, and has a continuous understanding of the nature and structure of the global economy and its relationship to individual liberty and freedom,” was carried out under his leadership. Heinemann guided the development of educational programs and the materials that are offered to educators to help them deliver the important economic concepts to their students.
Under Heinemann's leadership, 12 regional Centers for Economic Education were established to assist in the delivery of programs and workshops to teachers and students throughout the state. These centers are sponsored and supported by a number of colleges and businesses throughout the Commonwealth. While not the only program available, EconomicsPennsylvania is best known for the Stock Market Game, for which EconomicsPennsylvania is the licensed distributor in the Commonwealth. The classroom simulation competition provides students the opportunity to theoretically invest in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Studies show that students who participate in the stock market game score higher on economic tests and show significant gains in math and financial literacy.
To support the growth of EconomicsPennsylvania, Heinemann recruited dedicated staff and supportive volunteers who make up a state board of directors and five regional boards across the state. Along with this expansive network of individuals, Heinemann established fundraising partnerships with businesses and individuals from across the Commonwealth.
Nominator James R. Weaver noted that “as a result of his dedication, determination, and leadership, EconomicsPennsylvania has delivered admirably on its statement of purpose.” Jim proudly noted that Heinemann's “efforts through EconomicsPennsylvania to bring economic and financial literacy to the students of Pennsylvania have truly made a statewide impact.”
Student Leader Award
Hazleton Area High School
Hazleton Area High School, where Student Leader Logan Alucci is a senior, has a very diverse population with students from numerous ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds. For her senior project, Alucci wanted to draw attention to this diversity and create a lasting mark against bullying. Alucci’s project is a mural, depicting how all students should feel welcome at Hazleton Area High School regardless of their background. Featuring a man helping another who has fallen, the figures are surrounded by 13 quotes about equality, friendship, and belonging. The mural is displayed in the main hallway where everyone can see it as they walk into the building.
Alucci is described by her teachers and peers as someone who looks beyond the fabricated barriers of one’s physical appearance, intellectual abilities, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background to see the good in every person. Alucci’s teacher, Karen Caccese, says Logan, “demonstrates a genuine concern for the respectful and kind treatment of those around her, regardless of their differences. Her insight and maturity measure beyond her years, and she is a role model for others.”
As Pamela Bromiley, another of Logan’s teachers, said “others are learning through her example and will carry this lesson with them wherever they go; thus, she has not only made a difference in our school, she is changing the world.”
Nominator and teacher Jason Redwinski feels “her sculpture will, without a doubt, teach acceptance of all to future generations who enter the halls of the school.”
Community Leader Award
Rudolph (Rudy) Burruss
State College Educational Support Personnel Association
Rudolph Burruss is a refreshing, vibrant member of the State College Edu- cational Support Personnel Association. But he also has a long history of community involvement prior to his career in education. The former Harlem Globetrotter came to State College after playing basketball, knowing there had to be more to life than just the game. It was while he was a member of the Globetrotters that Burruss realized he wanted to work with special needs children.
Since 2000, Burruss has been employed as a special education paraprofessional in a ninth- and tenth-grade life skills class. Classroom teacher Jenny Lee said, “Rudy's dedication to students goes well beyond the four walls of our classroom. He is their strongest advocate, wherever they are during the school day and in the community.” Burruss participates in the annual “Day of Caring” by working with the high school special education students, dubbed the “Wild Dream Team,” as part of a local United Way program. Burruss works alongside the students, clearing and raking baseball fields and future playgrounds, making trails at nature centers, and painting, cleaning, and weeding at human service agencies.
Using his basketball skills, Burruss works with children at the Cub Clinic, dedicated to helping community children with special needs learn to play basketball. Rudy works every year with special needs students at Camp Krislund to develop life skills and motor skills, as well as survival training. He also works with the “Best Buddies” program, a global non-profit active in the State College community that provides opportunities for friendships between people with in- tellectual and developmental disabilities and those in the general population. As the assistant boys' basketball coach for the State College High School varsity team, he encourages all students to do their best on the court and in the classroom. He also involves the team as volunteers with the Best Buddies program.
Nominator Patricia Weaver describes Burruss as, “a truly exceptional individual, an exemplary support professional, and a highly committed union member.” Burruss' dedication is infectious beyond the school yard. The 2012 Pennsylvania ESP of the Year winner encourages not only his students to become more active, but also the State College citizens to become more aware and involved in their community and schools.
Educational Leader Award
East Stroudsburg High School South
Michael Healey's students aspire to change the world.
Aspire means “to long, aim, or seek ambitiously; be eagerly desirous, especially for something great or of high value.” As a World Cultures teacher at East Stroudsburg High School South, Michael Healey motivates his students, helps them to achieve their goals, and aspires for them to do more. Healey's students say he pushes them to be their best and shows them how they can make a difference in their community.
To meet the demands of a growing diverse population at East Stroudsburg, which Healey describes as “the whole world in a high school,” he formed UN ASPIRE South (Action by Students to Promote Innovation and Reform through Education) to teach his students about the importance of being good global citizens. Healey pushes his students to break through cultural barriers and mentors work on service projects to improve their community. UN ASPIRE South is officially affiliated with the United Nations, and is recognized as a student branch of the United Nations Academic Impact Initiative. This is the only high school group in the world to be affiliated with the UN ASPIRE Program.
As diverse as their backgrounds are, the students in UN ASPIRE South are unified by these differences. Hosting a variety of speakers, Healey helps to bring the world outside to the students inside the classroom. ASPIRE students collected personal items for families affected by HIV/AIDS in the Lehigh Valley and money for Cancer Support Community programs. Under Healey's guidance, the students have participated in several panels, seminar discussions, and presentations at the United Nations.
Healy also worked with ASPIRE students to read the bestselling non-fiction work “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” by Pulitzer Prize Winning New York Times Journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The book follows the authors' journey through Africa and Asia and exposes the unjust treatment of the women and young girls they en- countered. After reading the book, ASPIRE students raised over $1,000 for HEAL Africa, a women's hospital in Eastern Congo. A roundtable with the ASPIRE students was ultimately featured in the PBS Documentary adaptation of the book about the impact “Half the Sky” had on the group's initiative.
Healey remarks, “When you take students to the U.N., and when you give them a chance to meet a Pulitzer Prize winner, they're never going back. You've expanded their minds so far beyond where they were, and then they turn around and affect their families and friends. That's a wonderful thing.”
Former student, Aiza Khawaja wrote, “Mr. Healey has inspired us to do what we believe and to not let anyone talk us out of achieving what we think we can, and to not just reach for the sky, but to reach for the moon.”
Community Leader Award - Organization
Bethel Academy After School Program is a community-based endeavor that encourages academic achievement of the children in the Lower Merion School District as well as neighboring Haverford School District. Bethel Academy, founded in 2006 by director Jacquelyn Smith and Bethel AME Church in Ardmore, meets the tutoring and homework assistance needs of local children and creates a welcoming after-school program for students from kindergarten through eighth grade. Smith, who retired in 2005 from the Lower Merion School District after 38 years of teaching works closely with Lorraine Johnson to administer the program.
Staffed almost entirely by volunteers, the Academy runs September through May and is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. The average daily attendance of elementary and middle school students is between 40 and 50 students. Volunteer tutors include students from local colleges and high schools, current and retired teachers, and members of the church. Support has come from the Bethel AME Church, which donates the facility and supplies, and from the Lower Merion School District and Lower Merion Education Foundation as well as other area businesses.
Through the efforts and the participation of the Lower Merion School District, parents, district teachers and administrators, retired teachers, township public and private high school students, area college students and community organizations, the Academy has grown, not only in the number of students at- tending, but also in the skills, talents, and number of volunteers giving their time to the children.
In addition to its primary focus on providing academic assistance, the Academy expanded to include sports and physical exercise opportunities, book clubs, environmental and science awareness projects, and community service opportunities. Students take free art classes and go on enrichment field trips to local cultural centers such as Longwood Gardens, the Kimmel Center, and area museums. The Academy also collected clothing for earthquake victims in Haiti, participated in the Martin Luther King Day of Service, and cleaned up trash in the community. A music program, created in partnership with the Lower Merion School District, offers private lessons in piano, strings, and brass.
Maintaining a strict focus on developing respect, responsibility, and self-discipline, the Academy provides a safe, nurturing place to complete assignments, enrich core academic and test-taking skills, and acquire an appreciation for arts and culture. Nominators Terri Tyler and Debra Williams say the program, “established from the vision of one, Mrs. Jacquelyn Smith, fosters positive adult/child relationships and building stronger communities for generations to come.”