College of Education > News and Publications > News: 2009 > Alumni Society Board Honors Recipients of 2009 Awards

Alumni Society Board Honors Recipients of 2009 Awards

News release about the 2009 Alumni Society Board recipients

by Kala Burke (November 2009)


The College of Education Alumni Society Board of Directors proudly announces its 2009 award winners. These eight award recipients—alumni of Penn State’s College of Education—have distinguished themselves in their careers, both academically and professionally.

Alumni Society Awards 2009.jpg

Excellence in Education Award

Louis Danielson ’76 Ph.D.


Outstanding Teaching Award

George Daka ’97 Sec Ed


Leadership & Service Award

Andrew Dinniman ’78 D.Ed.


Outstanding New Graduate Award

Sarah Chicchi ‘06 E K Ed


Outstanding Student Teaching Awards

Fall 2008
Jaime Murray ’08 E K Ed
Ryan McKenzie ’08 Sec Ed
Spring 2009
Caitlin Nahas ‘09 E K Ed
Ryan Hinkle ‘09 Sec Ed

Excellence In Education Award – Louis Danielson


Dr. Louis Danielson is the 2009 recipient of the Excellence in Education Award. This prestigious award, established in 1970, recognizes a professional who has made significant contributions to the field of education and who has truly distinguished himself or herself in every aspect of life. It is the highest honor given by the College of Education’s Alumni Society.

Danielson received his doctorate degree in educational psychology from Penn State in 1976. He received a master’s degree in educational psychology from Edinboro University in 1971, and a bachelor of arts in chemistry from Thiel College in 1967.

Danielson is currently a managing director at the American Institutes for Research. Until 2008, he was director of the Research to Practice Division of the Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education. As director, he was responsible for the national programs authorized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which include the Technical Assistance and Dissemination Program, the Personnel Preparation Program, the Technology Program, the State Improvement Grant Program, the Parent Training and Information Center Program, and the Technical Assistance on State Date Program.

As part of his work on the Individuals with Disabilities Act, Danielson has guided the development and implementation of the evaluation studies to assess the impact of IDEA.

He also served as the U.S. representative for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Special Needs Education workgroup. He also provided the leadership needed to promote large-scale implementation and evaluation of research-based practices in schools.

A colleague of Danielson’s, Patricia J. Guard, said, “As director of the Research to Practice Division, Dr. Danielson has provided national leadership in knowledge development, transfer, and use to ensure that policy makers, administrators, and teachers have the knowledge base and tools needed to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. His intellect, expertise, and historical knowledge of research, data, legislation, policy, innovation, and practice have fostered a national agenda that has helped transform the field of special education.”

Outstanding Teaching Award – George Daka


George Daka is the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Teaching Award, which recognizes a classroom practitioner who has positively affected students as well as parents, colleagues, and peers within the schools and communities.

Daka graduated in 1997 with a bachelor of science degree in sociology as well as secondary education social studies. He received his master’s degree from Gratz College. He currently teaches a ninth-grade gifted class, as well as advanced placement United States history classes and AP European history classes at Bensalem High School.

Daka started a Model United Nations’ Club at his school as well as an international program within the school district. He wrote and implemented the ninth-grade gifted program curriculum. He is currently a member of the National Council for Social Studies and is an elected board member of the United Nations Association of Greater Philadelphia.

A colleague of Daka’s, Matt Hoyas, said, “Mr. Daka successfully infuses primary and secondary sources from other world regions into instruction to counter stereotypes, misinformation, and lack of knowledge. His vast experiences working with both students and other professionals, as well as his extensive traveling, have afforded him a greater understanding of the world and the teaching profession.”

Leadership and Service Award – Andrew Dinniman


State Sen. Andrew Dinniman is the recipient of the 2009 Leadership and Service Award. This award is presented to alumni who have distinguished themselves in their careers, either within or outside of the field of education.

Dinniman received his doctorate degree in education from Penn State in 1978. He received his master’s degree from the University of Maryland in 1969 and his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Connecticut in 1966.

Dinniman is currently representing Pennsylvania’s 19th District in the Senate, where he is a member of several committees and serves as minority chair on the Education Committee. Prior to serving in the legislature, he served as a Chester County Commissioner for more than 14 years.

Dinniman has spent more than three decades in the field of public service. He founded the Safe Harbor Homeless Shelter in Chester County, as well as the Chester County Gleaning Project. He serves on the Benjamin Franklin Technological Development Authority and the state Board of Education. He also represents Pennsylvania on the Education Commission of the States.

He has received numerous awards and honors, including the NAACP Community Service Award, the Military Order of the Purple Heart Citation for Outstanding Service to Veterans, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Excellence in Local Government Award, the Grange Award for Public Service, the Exton Regional Chamber of Commerce Regional Leadership Award, the Chester County Water Resources Leadership Award, and the Melton Arts and Education Center Community Builder Award.

Dinniman’s colleague, Sister Maria Consuelo Sparks, said, “Sen. Dinniman regularly uses his chairmanship position to espouse the ever-increasing value of education in today’s world and marketplace and has always maintained that investments in education are vital to the long-term health of a strong and stable economy. He has clearly distinguished himself as an exceptional leader, a gifted educator, and a true public servant who never hesitates to go the extra mile for the good of the people.”

Outstanding New Graduate Award – Sarah Chicchi


Sarah Chicchi received the 2009 Outstanding New Graduate Award, which recognizes recent baccalaureate graduates who have distinguished themselves in their new careers. Chicchi graduated in May 2006 with a bachelor of science degree in elementary and kindergarten education with a concentration in mathematics and science.

She taught fourth-grade and fifth-grade mathematics at Joe Toler–Oak Hill Elementary School in Granville County, N.C., for three years. She is now a full-time student at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, studying in the Masters in School Administration program. She also works part-time for the Student Coalition for Action in Literacy Education as a mentor and coordinator of undergraduate tutors.

Chicchi designed and implemented the fourth-grade and fifth-grade curricula and chaired and organized the school’s first Math Madness Tournament. She won two grants, which helped improve the technology in her classroom as well as the Granville County Schools A+ Certificate for excellence in teaching.

A colleague, Amanda Weldon, said of Chicchi, “She links to the prior knowledge of her students and makes the content meaningful to her students. Ms. Chicchi does an incredible job of integrating technology within the classroom, which increases the engagement of all her students. She is invested in the achievement of all students and continuously self-evaluates and is interested in constructive feedback from her peers, her students, and her administrators. She is an outstanding teacher.”


Outstanding Student Teaching Awards


Four alumni were honored with Outstanding Student Teaching Awards—two for the fall 2008 semester and two for the spring 2009 semester.


Jaime Murray

Jaime Murray is a recipient of the Fall 2008 Outstanding Student Teaching Award. She graduated with a bachelor of science degree in elementary and kindergarten education, with an elementary education teaching option.

Murray completed her student teaching program at McAnnulty Elementary School in the Baldwin-Whitehall School District, where she taught in a first-grade classroom. She now is employed in the district as a third-grade teacher at Whitehall Elementary School.

As a student teacher, Murray instructed a diverse group of students and utilized both whole-group and individual response formats to check student progress. She also created a health unit on nutrition, in which she adapted each lesson and activity to the appropriate grade level of her students.

Murray’s student teaching supervisor, Catherine Cramer, said, “Ms. Murray’s enthusiasm, congeniality, organizational skills, and willingness to continually grow as a teacher were capably demonstrated. Lessons were well researched and creatively designed. She established a learning environment that was positive and respectful. Jaime Murray has the knowledge, personal qualities, performance skills, and caring needed of today’s professionals.”

Ryan McKenzie

Ryan McKenzie is a recipient of the Fall 2008 Outstanding Student Teaching Award. McKenzie graduated with a bachelor of science degree in secondary education with a mathematics option.

McKenzie completed his student teaching program at Fenix Kunskapscentrum, a high school in Vaggeryd, Sweden, where he taught mathematics. Although he is not fluent in Swedish, McKenzie developed a method for communicating with students in order to convey mathematical understanding to students in a meaningful way. He developed five written mathematics tests in Swedish, graded and analyzed them, and then discussed common mistakes with the students.

Dr. Ulla Lundgren, McKenzie’s Swedish student teaching advisor, said of McKenzie, “He had a remarkably good relationship with his students. He gave attention to everyone from their individual demands and made sure no one was excluded. Ryan is a born teacher. With such genuine pedagogical talent and true interest in young people’s learning process, he will succeed wherever he will teach in the future.”

McKenzie has accepted a full-time position teaching mathematics at North Penn High School in Lansdale, Pa.

Caitlin Nahas

Caitlin Nahas is a recipient of the Spring 2009 Outstanding Student Teaching Award. She graduated with a bachelor of science degree in elementary and kindergarten education with an elementary education teaching option.

Nahas completed her student teaching at Juniata Valley Elementary School in Alexandria, Pa., where she taught in a second-grade classroom. She created classroom activities that were goal oriented while allowing for differentiation of student interest and ability levels. Nahas spent as much time as possible responding and interacting with her students on a one-on-one basis.

David Christopher, the school’s elementary principal, said, “Ms. Nahas’s lessons in class clearly demonstrate that she has the pedagogical knowledge necessary to be an excellent student teacher. Additionally, it has been very apparent that she has an innate need to work with children. She has a wonderful way of coaxing and moving even the most challenging student. This skill is not something that can be taught in a class. It is a gift that Ms. Nahas is lucky to possess, and one that she uses very well to help the children in her charge succeed.”

Nahas is currently a substitute in the Central Bucks School District in Bucks County, Pa. She is also attending Arcadia University as a full-time graduate student, pursuing a master’s degree in education and a certificate in special education.

Ryan Hinkle

Ryan Hinkle is a recipient of the Spring 2009 Outstanding Student Teaching Award. Hinkle graduated with a bachelor of science degree in secondary education with a social studies teaching option, as well as a minor in geography and in history.

Hinkle completed his student teaching program at Pennridge High School in Perkasie, Pa., where he taught an 11th-grade world cultures class. His lesson plans were focused on capturing the interest and curiosity of his students, who were largely unfamiliar with the cultures under study. Hinkle was also involved in the school community outside of his student teaching, serving as assistant coach on the freshman baseball team.

Hinkle’s cooperating teacher, Mark Hoff, said, “Through attention to detail, a willingness to try new things, and self-reflection, Ryan creates a welcoming and effective classroom where students flourish. With a solid foundation in differentiated instructional techniques, and more importantly a firm belief in the impact of individualizing instruction, Mr. Hinkle strikes the appropriate balance between skill and content development. Ryan is an excellent teacher who will be a valuable addition to any secondary school.”

Hinkle has accepted a social studies teaching position at Perkiomen Valley High School, Collegeville, Pa.