Eight Neag School Alumni Honored at 26th Annual Awards Celebration

The Student Union Ballroom at UConn Storrs was filled on Saturday, March 9, with Neag School of Education Alumni Board members, faculty, staff, administrators, friends, and guests

Neag School Alumni Award recipients gather in front of a blue UConn banner.

Front row, from left: Amanda Sutter; Amber Dickey ’16 (CLAS), ’16 (ED), ’17 MA; Susannah Richards ’03 Ph.D.; Claudia Bouchard ’19 MA; Carmen Effron ’72 (ED), ’81 MBA. Back row, from left: Kathleen “Kate” England ’85 (ED), ’94 MA, ’13 ELP; Scott Hurwitz ’06 (ED), ’07 MA, ’19 Ed.D., ’21 ELP; Dean Jason G. Irizarry; Madeline Negrón '98 MA, ’12 Ph.D., ’15 ELP; and David Petrone ’92 MA, ’99 6th Year, ’12 ELP. (Defining Images/Neag School)

The Student Union Ballroom at UConn Storrs was filled on Saturday, March 9,  with Neag School of Education Alumni Board members, faculty, staff, administrators, friends, and guests honoring eight distinguished Neag School alumni at the School’s 26th annual Alumni Awards Celebration.

“Today, we are celebrating this event for the 26th consecutive year, thanks to the Neag School Alumni Board,” said Jason G. Irizarry, dean of the Neag School of Education. “A big thank you to all of the Board’s past and present members for their continued support in making this annual celebration possible. It’s always wonderful to see you all and spend the afternoon together.”

Before the Alumni Awards presentation began, emcee Jocelyn Tamborello-Noble ’03 (ED), ’04 MA, ’09 6thYear, Alumni Board president and interim principal at Conard High School in West Hartford, recognized a couple of other special awards.

While only one recipient could join the event Saturday afternoon, the Alumni Board was thrilled to support three graduate students with scholarships this year: Megan Go is a master’s student in higher education and student affairs; Kenya Overton is a doctoral student studying curriculum and instruction with a concentration in secondary mathematics; and Amanda Sutter is a doctoral student studying research methods, measurement, and evaluation.

Professor Emeritus Vincent Rogers established the Rogers Educational Innovation Fund, through which one elementary or middle school teacher in Connecticut is chosen annually to receive a $5,000 award in support of an innovative classroom project. The 2024 Rogers Educational Innovation Fund award winner, Victoria Raucci, is a magnet resource teacher at the Davis Academy for Arts and Design Innovation in New Haven.

Through her School Clubs Program, she hopes to provide clubs of high interest to promote student engagement at Davis. In turn, the clubs will help increase student attendance and provide social and academic skills that will translate into higher scores on state testing, especially for Black and Hispanic students.

“Individuals who make distinctive sources of support a reality, like the Rogers Award, are so important to us and the Neag School,” Tamborello-Noble said. “Their selfless contributions remain vital in providing our talented students, faculty, and education community members with much-appreciated financial support.”

Following the networking reception, eight Neag School alumni were recognized in the following categories, with each awardee being featured in a short video and then giving brief remarks:

Outstanding School Educator – Amber Dickey ’16 (CLAS), ’16 (ED), ’17 MA

A graduate of the Neag School’s foreign language education master’s program, Amber Dickey is a Spanish teacher at East Hartford High School (EHHS), where she was recognized as Teacher of the Month in 2021. In this role, she proposed, developed, and piloted the first Heritage Spanish two-year course sequence. She also modifies and enhances curricula monthly in response to student strengths and collaborates with other Heritage Spanish teachers to ensure vertical alignment of course and linguistic expectations for growth.

At EHHS, Dickey is a data team leader and leads meetings for all secondary World Language teachers in the district. While balancing mentoring new teachers in the department, she’s also an EHHS study abroad liaison for Costa Rican Resources, an advisor for the junior class and the ASL Club, and an assistant coach for the cross-country team. Dickey will be a primary presenter at a University of Wisconsin online webinar for K-16 educators, is a teacher fellow for the UConn Human Rights Close to Home program, and is a published author for “Teacher’s Discovery.”

“I am humbled and deeply honored to receive the Outstanding School Educator Award,” Dickey said. “This recognition is a testament to the incredible teamwork within my school community.”

Outstanding Professional – Kathleen “Kate” England ’85 (ED), ’94 MA, ’13 ELP

For the past five years, Kate England has served as a partnership manager for Insight Education Group in Encino, California. In this role, she partners with school district leaders to provide targeted support on strategic planning and educator effectiveness. Key deliverables include district reform, strategic plan development, executive coaching, and equity audits. Before that, she was the chief of academic, teaching, learning, and student supports for Hartford Public Schools, where she oversaw the work of multiple departments for 21,000 students and 47 schools.

England facilitated the implementation of effective teaching, learning, and assessment within the district theory of action; directed and supported curriculum, instruction, and support services and assessments to meet students’ needs; developed and maintained partnerships with critical stakeholders; and numerous additional executive assignments. She’s held district and school leadership positions throughout Connecticut, including with Norwich, Manchester, and Windham Public Schools. England’s education career began as an elementary grade teacher and Reading Recovery Teacher leader in Connecticut. In addition, she was honored with the Connecticut Reading Association’s Nicholas Criscuolo Reading Award for Administrators.

“I want to congratulate my fellow learners,” England said. “I feel lucky to be joining such a talented and successful group of educators and feel happy for the students and families that you are undoubtedly positively impacting.”

Outstanding Early Career Professional – Claudia Bouchard ’19 MA

A graduate of the Neag School’s Teacher Certification Program for College Graduates, Claudia Bouchard is a multilingual and multi-grade science teacher for Norwich Free Academy (NFA) in Norwich, Connecticut, who uses her native language of Spanish to communicate with students who are new arrivals to the U.S. Before NFA, Bouchard worked as a science teacher at the middle school level at Dual Language Arts Magnet Middle School in Waterford and Teacher Memorial Global Studies Magnet Middle School in Norwich and co-taught a course for Arizona State University. She is passionate about project-based learning and has participated in student research opportunities such as the CT Invention Convention, Natural Resources Conservation Academy, Project Oceanology, and more.

In her classes at NFA, she supports her students in their language learning while teaching science. Bouchard is also the advisor for the Successful Hispanic Alliance Club at NFA and volunteers at events such as the Hispanic Heritage Celebration at the Waterford Library and the Southeastern Connecticut Hispanic Alliance, among others. In addition, she serves on various community boards, including the Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center, Waterford Rise, Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center in Mystic, Grasso Tech PFO, and the Connecticut Age Well Collaborative. In 2022, she received the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) Salutes Award for her commitment to public education.

“I did not realize that my gift of speaking Spanish would be so helpful in the classroom,” Bouchard said. “I have students from different cultures in my classroom, and other languages are spoken. Those children bring so much diversity and enrichment to the classroom. So, the language is a gift I can give back to my community.”

Outstanding School Administrator – Scott Hurwitz ’06 (ED), ’07 MA, ’19 Ed.D., ’21 ELP

Scott Hurwitz has served as the assistant superintendent of finance and operations for Farmington Public Schools since 2022 and previously served as the principal for Farmington High School (FHS). His vision and leadership at FHS led the school to be ranked the No. 5 high school in Connecticut by U.S. News and World Report, and he has led the efforts for a brand new, state-of-the-art high school building, which will open in the fall of 2024. While at FHS, Hurwitz led a partnership with a team of educators that used data to discover trends in the school’s scheduling, especially when underrepresented groups were not recommended for taking Advanced Placement and college credit-bearing courses.

Hurwitz also led an initiative to close the opportunity gap by expanding the number of courses offered in AP and Early College Enrollment. Hurwitz has served as an adjunct professor, a doctoral coach for the Neag School’s Department of Educational Leadership, and a mentor principal for the University of Connecticut’s Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP). His education career began at Gideon Welles School in Glastonbury, where he taught sixth-grade world geography before becoming the school’s assistant principal.

“Being a Husky is synonymous with being the best, and I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Hurwitz said. “Attending UConn, I saw it as the teaching capital of the world. I wanted to be a Division I educator. I wanted to train with and learn from the best in the business. You’re surrounded by folks who are committed to the most important work we have. You’re in the teaching capital of the world.”

Outstanding School Superintendent – David Petrone ’92 MA, ’99 6th Year, ’12 ELP

A graduate of the Neag School’s UCAPP and Executive Leadership Program (ELP), along with earning a master’s in education with a concentration in special education, David Petrone has served as the superintendent for Coventry Public Schools in Coventry, Connecticut, since 2012. Petrone serves as the district’s chief executive officer and, in his role, advocates for preparing more than 1,600 students for life, learning, and work in the 21st century. Through his leadership, some of the district’s specific accomplishments include securing grant funds to build a new preschool, implementing a one-to-one device program for students in grades K-12, redesigning the district’s technology department, instituting a full-day kindergarten program, establishing district innovation grants, creating the Coventry Leadership Academy, redesigning the K-12 Reading Intervention Program, creating specialized in-district programs meeting the needs of students such as the program for students identified with autism, among other notable accolades.

In addition, one of the district’s schools, the G.H. Robertson School, was recognized as a 2020 National Blue Ribbon School. Before his district role, Petrone served as a school administrator for 12 years. He began his career as a special education teacher at Manchester Regional Academy, where he was selected as the 1998-1999 Teacher of the Year.

“Despite the many obstacles that come our way during any given school year, I couldn’t be prouder of what we have accomplished during my tenure,” Petrone said. “I’m truly excited about what lies ahead. When I received a call that the Neag School was recognizing me, I was very surprised and honored after it all sunk in. Many thanks to the Neag School Alumni Board for this honor.”

Outstanding Higher Education Professional – Susannah Richards ’03 Ph.D.

Susannah Richards was appointed associate professor of reading and language arts at Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) in 2009 and previously served as an assistant professor for four years. In her role at ECSU, she designed and facilitated numerous literacy and literature for youth courses spanning both undergraduate and graduate levels. Richards has invited multiple winning authors, such as Jason Reynolds and Grace Lin, to campus to engage with her students. During that time, she also served as an educational consultant and advisor for various book publishers, including Henry Holt, Penguin, Scholastic, and Simon & Schuster, and served on prestigious book award committees.

Richards has provided keynote or featured presentations at numerous state, national, and international educational conferences and is a regular contributor to UConn-sponsored events, including Confratute, the Teaching and Learning with Technology annual conference, and the Human Rights Close to Home Institute. Her service and leadership to the literacy community are extensive, including co-coordinating the Rhode Island Festival of Children’s Books and Authors for the past ten years. Richards has been recognized for her academic achievements through the Norton Juster Reader to Reader Award, Omicron Delta Kappa (Leadership Teacher Inductee) at ECSU, and the 2010 CSU Board of Regents’ Teaching Award for ECSU. Richards began her education career as a second-grade and AP English teacher in Washington, D.C.

“Thank you to Ray and Carole Neag. I was one of the first recipients of the first monies that they gave to the School of Education,” she said. “The work that I do today and the giving that I do in the community are directly a result of the fact that this community gave to me. So, thank you.”

Outstanding Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Professional – Madeline Negrón, ’98 MA, ’12 Ph.D., ’15 ELP

As New Haven Public Schools’ (NHPS) superintendent of schools since 2023, Madeline Negrón leads Connecticut’s second-largest pre-K-12 urban school district with 41 schools, including one adult and continuing education center and one early learning center. In her role, she serves as the CEO of a seven-member hybrid board of education and establishes expectations for a culture and climate that fosters growth in student achievement. Before NHPS, Negrón served as deputy superintendent for Hartford Public Schools, a pre-K-12 urban school district with 39 schools.

At the beginning of her district leadership tenure, she co-founded the Connecticut Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (CALAS), which aims to foster quality and equitable public education for Latino Connecticut students and inspire, cultivate, develop, and support Hispanic/Latino educational leaders and talent. Her over 20 years in education leadership positions include numerous accolades, such as designing and implementing structures to serve 16,500 students, instituting a team structure for fiscal responsibility and sustainability, and notably increasing four-year graduation rates. Negrón’s educational career began at Windham Middle School where she served as a bilingual teacher.

“To be the first one in the family to get a college education — and the award is diversity, equity, and inclusion — it signifies for me that fight because I call it a fight,” Negrón said. “Those of you who know are gone; you can’t see them anymore. What remains are the emotions, experiences, and education that I received here that started me off. And I have to say before I go that I am so impressed with all of the people here today who are getting an award.”

Distinguished Alumna – Carmen Effron ’72 (ED), ’81 MBA

Carmen Effron is the founder and president of C F Effron Company LLC, based in Fairfield County, Connecticut. For 25 years the company has focused on the intersection of finance, banking, and insurance. C F Effron Company provides strategy and management consulting and customer experience research to numerous banks, credit unions, insurers, and reinsurers domestically and abroad.  Before that, Effron was CEO of BankBoston Executive Benefits and president of BankBoston Insurance Agency (now Bank of America). Effron was also president of NatWest Bank’s U.S. domestic insurance operations before their acquisition and worked in the European market with the American International Group’s European Life Division and for the U.K. insurance subsidiary of the French company, Groupe des Assurance Nationale (GAN). Her broad-based financial services background includes management responsibility for the Northeast sales and marketing division of General Reassurance Corporation and as a personal money manager for Merrill Lynch.

Her broad-based financial services background includes management responsibility for the Northeast sales and marketing division of General Reassurance Corporation and as a personal money manager for Merrill Lynch. A Neag School’s Board of Advocates member, Effron set up the Arminio Effron Scholarship Fund in 2007 to support undergraduate or graduate students in the Neag School’s Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s (IB/M) teacher education program. Effron’s father, Kenneth Arminio, was a career-long educator and Neag School alumnus. In 2011, Effron was inducted into the UConn School of Business Hall of Fame, one of 150 people honored to date out of 50,000 graduates. In 2013, she received the Connecticut Small Business Institute for Excellence in Commerce award.

“I’d also like to dedicate this award to my dad because he is constantly in my mind,” Effron said. “I found that during my working career, I could coach, I could teach, I could sponsor, and I could mentor. And those are the things that my dad did exceedingly well. Also, I would like to thank the Neag School and its Alumni Board for this honor. I also want to thank all my friends and family who are here to support me today.”

To close out the afternoon, the awards ceremony included a video performance of Neag School music education students singing and playing “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5.

“Thank you to our amazing music education students,” Tamborello-Noble said. “We’re fortunate to have such talented artists in our School. To conclude this afternoon, I would like to thank our University Events staff and Neag School alumni relations director Emily Murray, who has done a terrific job with today’s event.”

“Congratulations again, and thank you, everyone, for joining us,” she concluded.