Neag Alumni Society Recognizes Outstanding Graduates

The Neag School of Education Alumni Society and the faculty of the Neag School of Education hosted the 15th Annual Awards Dinner on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at the South Campus Ballroom. The evening was memorable as faculty and alumni gathered to formally recognize the achievements of some of our outstanding graduates. The award recipients are educators […]

Pictured (L-R, top row): Karen Castagno, James Spina, Dean Thomas DeFranco, Miguel Cardona, Patrice Farquharson, Phillip Bryant; (L-R, bottom row): Paula Singer, Janet Robinson, Kathleen Kelley and June Cahill

The Neag School of Education Alumni Society and the faculty of the Neag School of Education hosted the 15th Annual Awards Dinner on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at the South Campus Ballroom.

The evening was memorable as faculty and alumni gathered to formally recognize the achievements of some of our outstanding graduates. The award recipients are educators who have made significant contributions across all levels of education.


Outstanding Higher Education Professional

Dr. Patrice E. Farquharson ‘79

Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education/Child Studies at Post University and Executive Director of West Haven Child Development Center in West Haven, CT

Video of Patrice

IMG_5598 webDr. Farquharson received her Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Connecticut, her Master of Science in Early Childhood Education from Southern Connecticut University, and her Doctorate of Education with Nova Southeastern University.  She is a certified pre-K through sixth grade teacher, and completed Southern Connecticut University’s Administrative and Supervisory Certificate Program.

A frequent conference presenter on topics involving early childhood education, Dr. Farquharson has been with Post University since 1996, originally hired as the Director of Early Childhood Education studies, and has also served as Executive Director of West Haven Child Development Center, Inc. since 1982.

Dr. Farquharson received the Professional Development Award from Connecticut Early Childhood Council in 1996, 1998 and 2004, and has also been named in “Who’s Who in American Education” from 1998 through 2010.  She is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Outstanding Kinesiology Professional

Dr. Karen S. Castagno ‘80, ‘91

Associate Dean for Teacher Education and Co-director of Ph.D. in Education Program at Rhode Island College in Providence, RI

Video of Karen

IMG_5603 webJames M. Alarid, Professor of Special Education at New Mexico Highlands University, nominated Castagno, stating that she “has developed her skills and abilities so that her students may develop their academic fluency, scientific proficiency, professionalism, and the ability to transfer their knowledge using practical applications to a new generation of students.”

Castagno has been the Associate Dean for the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development at Rhode Island College for five years, and Professor of Education in the Feinstein School since 2005. Castagno had previously provided sports training for individuals with intellectual disabilities as Director of Sports Training for Special Olympics Connecticut for seven years.

In addition, Castagno served as the Director of the Motor Activities Program at the Special Olympics World Winter Games. Castagno is an accomplished author and presents at national and international conferences.  She has won several awards for her work, most recently in 2012 for Outstanding Professional from the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance – Eastern District.


Outstanding Physical Therapy Professional

Dr. Kathleen K. Kelley ‘88

Associate Professor of Physical Therapy at Quinnipiac University and former Director/Owner of Yoga Center in Plantsville, CT

Video of Kathleen

IMG_5616 webAs stated by Meghan W. Trull in her letter of nomination, “She has a way of educating others with her vast level of knowledge in a positive atmosphere. I hope that one day I will be able to have a positive influence on others similar to what Kathleen  has had on my academic and clinical experience at Quinnipiac University and beyond.”

Kelley has served as an Associate Professor of Physical Therapy at Quinnipiac University for 17 years. Kelley creates a hands-off learning environment where students feel satisfaction and ownership of their work but still helps students reach their desired end results. Kelley has had numerous peer and non-peer reviewed publications and presentations published.

Kelley had previously been director and owner of the Yoga Center of Cheshire, LLC, in Plantsville, Conn. from 1998-2010 and a  Co-Owner of the Physical Therapy Center of Bristol in Bristol, Conn. until 2012.

In addition, Kelley is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), the Connecticut APTA Chapter, the Neurology section of the APTA and the Education section of the APTA. Kelley had been on the program committee of the Connecticut APTA chapter from 1996-1998, and a delegate to APTA from 2007-2008, where Kelley represented Connecticut.


Outstanding School Educator

June L. Cahill ‘93, ‘94

Instructional Coach at E.B. Kennelly School in Hartford, CT

Video of June

IMG_5624 webCahill is the Instructional Coach at E.B. Kennelly School, which received a commendation from the Connecticut State Department of Education for extraordinary student achievement on the Connecticut Mastery Test. Cahill earned her BS in Elementary Education in 1993 and her BS in Human Development and Family Relations from the School of Family Studies in 1992. Cahill also earned her MA in Education from the Neag School of Education in 1994.

In their letter of nomination, her fifth year student interns from the Neag School of Education Michelle Bashaw, Tiffany Studer, Kelsey Rich and Kate Kantrow wrote, “June is a true leader. Teachers look up to her, and it is daily that we see her taking time out of her very busy schedule to help other teachers in the building. Whether it is modeling lessons, giving feedback offering advice, or just being a good listener June serves a vital role in her school. June shares all that she has learned not for her own benefit, but to truly help other teachers and their students.”

Cahill has taught at Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut for 19 years. Cahill represents what a true teacher leader should be by being a supportive and effective mentor for both the teachers and interns that come to her school. Cahill is a lead teacher for the Neag School of Education and a cooperating teacher, internship supervisor for Neag School of Education students.

In addition, Cahill is a mentor teacher and Reflection Paper Reviewer for the Teacher Education and Mentoring Program (TEAM) program. Cahill works with programs such as TEAM and Hartford Performs as a mentor and coordinator to help students and teachers reach their full potential.


Outstanding School Administrator

Dr. Miguel A. Cardona ‘01, ‘04, ‘11, ‘12

Principal at Hanover Elementary School in Meriden, CT

Video of Miguel

IMG_5636 webCardona is the principal at Hanover Elementary School, Meriden, Conn., which was recently recognized by ConnCAN as a Top 10 School for Student Performance Gains.

As stated by Mark D. Benigni and Robert J. Angell in their letter of nomination, “Dr. Cardona leads a school with high academic and firm behavioral expectations. Through his leadership and collaborative style, the administration, teachers and staff work as a team to meet the individual needs of the students.”

Recently, Cardona received the Connecticut Association of Schools’ Award for National Distinguished Principal of the Year for Connecticut for his outstanding leadership and strong professional focus. Cardona creates a vibrant and nurturing environment where encourages teachers to be effective and caring educators, students to achieve their prime, and parents to be fully engaged in the school.

Cardona has helped create a number of new programs that helped improve student learning at Hanover that includes the “Million Word Club,” which rewards students who read one million words with a monthly non-cafeteria lunch with the principal. Cardona co-chairs the CT Legislative Achievement Gap Task Force.

In addition, Cardona co-founded the Meriden Coalition for Educational Excellence. Cardona is a member of many professional and community committees and associations dedicated to the youth in his community and State. Cardona has been recognized by many different organizations such as the NAACP and the Meriden Chamber of Commerce.


Outstanding School Superintendent

Dr. Janet M. Robinson ‘06

Superintendent of Newtown Public Schools in Newtown, CT

Video of Janet

IMG_5649 webAs stated by Dr. Linda Gejda in her letter of nomination, “Janet has mentored educators, who aspire to be superintendents, and is open and available to all, whether parent, community member or colleague, who seek to learn more about various facets of the education setting. Janet is a reflective practitioner and models professionalism for her staff: she is continuously to local, national and international conversations about education and recognizes the value in communities of practice.”

Robinson has served as superintendent for Newtown Public Schools in Connecticut for five years. She creates an optimum learning experience for teaching and learning for both students and teachers. Robinson also established a partnership with Liaochang, China schools that created the internationally recognized district program known as N.I.C.E. The partnership now includes other countries that bring real-world experiences and international education to Newtown students, staff and the Newtown community.

In addition, Robinson was honored by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA). She is a member of the AASA, CT Center for School Change, CAPSS Technology Committee, CAPSS International Education Committee, and National Superintendent’s Round Table.


Outstanding Young Professional

Phillip D. Bryant, ‘08

Director of AVTV and High Tech Classrooms at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, CT and President of the Hartford Hurricanes in Hartford, CT

Video of Phillip

IMG_5672 webAs stated by Marijke Kehrhahn in her letter of nomination, “Conversations with Phil always included a story about one of his athletes or one of his teams, or about a programmatic improvement he was trying to make, or a problem he was trying to solve. Phil stopped at nothing to get the best for his players. His passion for football and his dedication to the youth of Hartford fed him with boundless energy and determination.”

As the president of the Hartford Hurricanes, Bryant had the team join the Southern Connecticut league and became the first ever Division I Pop Warner team and first youth team to allow 5 and 6 year olds an opportunity to play in Hartford. This move created more than 200 spots for children and youth to join the team and opened up opportunities for cheerleading. The team won the state championship and the New England championship in 2012 and headed to Disney World in Orlando, Fla. to play in the Pop Warner Super Bowl.

The Hartford Hurricanes played their semi-final game against Holy Cross from Texas and won in double overtime. Their semi-final game was covered by ESPN3, making the Hartford Hurricanes the first ever Hartford team to make nationals and play on ESPN. The Hurricanes finished at nationals ranked 3rd in the nation.

As president, Bryant is required to be involved in every aspect of the team which includes team training, schedules, transportation, fundraising and parent involvement.

In 2011, Bryant partnered up with parents and youth to improve the playing fields in Hartford and had the Hurricanes hold an event called “$1 Million Dollar Turf Run,” to raise money to build new athletic fields in Hartford and bring awareness to the issue. The turf run is still ongoing and hopes to provide Hartford youth a safer and more environmental youth football field.


Outstanding Professional

Dr. James D. Spina ‘82

Senior Lecturer at the University of Maryland’s Smith Business School in College Park, MD; past Consultant with The Spina Network in Annapolis, MD and past Director of Management and Succession Planning Development with the Tribune Company in Chicago, IL

Video of James

IMG_5685 webAs stated by Stephanie Goldklang in her letter of nomination, “Dr. Spina encourages students to adapt his own passion for knowledge, and his commitment to excelling in the written and spoken word whereas many have overlooked this skill set with the advent of social media and internet communication. Dr. Spina has managed to address the importance of both viral tools and non-technical means of communication.”

Recently, Spina’s proposal for a new MBA course, entitled “How to Beat the Competition by Managing Change,” was accepted by the University of Maryland’s Smith Business School’s EMBA program. Spina will organize the course in June of 2013 in China for 50 select students.

In addition, Spina proposed a new “I Course,” courses that are designed to replace traditional core undergraduate courses and focus on developing critical thinking skills. Spina’s course, “Is American Destine to Fall by 2076?” was selected in a University-wide competition. This is Spina’s second “I course” to have been selected.


Distinguished Alumna

Paula Riggi Singer, ‘76

President & CEO, Global Products and Services, Laureate Education Inc. in Baltimore, MD

Video of Paula 

acceptance speech webSinger is the president and CEO of Laureate Global Products and Services where she leads the company’s international online, network products and services, information technology, and U.S. campus-based operations, as well as its global programs in hospitality management; culinary arts; and architecture, art and design.  Previously, Singer served as president of Sylvan Education Solutions (now Catapult Learning), where she led the educational support services division. Singer formerly held several senior positions at American Learning Corporation, a subsidiary of Encyclopedia Britannica, including vice president of marketing, executive vice president of operations, and general manager.

Singer earned her B.S. in Education from the Neag School of Elementary Education in 1976. Singer was the first education major to be selected for the prestigious University Scholar program.

As stated by Heather McDonald, Neag School of Education’s director of development, in her letter of nomination, “This award, honoring ‘a professional working within the public or private sector’ could not be more well-deserved by anyone. I appreciate the opportunity to share Paula’s commitment to higher education.”

In 2004, Singer was recognized as one of five Enterprising Women in Maryland by the Baltimore Business Journal. She was named one of “Maryland’s Top 100 Women” three times by the Maryland Daily Record, earning her induction into the publication’s prestigious “Circle of Excellence.” She also was named one of the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland’s Distinguished Women of 2009, and is the recipient of a 2009 Leader Award from the YWCA of the Greater Baltimore Area.

Singer is an active leader of the United Way, and serves on the organization’s Women’s Leadership Council, which is committed to improving local communities and the quality of life for children.

Singer is an advisory board member of the Johns Hopkins University School of Education and an advisor for the Board of Directors of Business Volunteers Unlimited (BVU). She also served for six years as the secretary and executive committee member of the board of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Elementary School; she remains an active volunteer at the school today.