Congratulations to the 2020 NYSRA Award Recipients

Congratulations to the 2020 NYSRA Award Recipients

Even though 2020 has presented its many incredible challenges, the New York State Reading Association has continued to move forward and support literacy initiatives. Once again, NYSRA has been recognized with the International Literacy Association’s (ILA) Award of Excellence. NYSRA has maintained this designation for over three decades now, and it is truly a testament to the mission of our organization. The ILA has also designated four of our member councils as official ILA Honor Councils: Central New York Reading Council, Nassau Reading Council, Niagara Frontier Reading Council, and Rochester Area Literacy Council. Congratulations to these councils for their exemplary efforts.

Part of NYSRA’s work is to provide recognition to deserving individuals and member councils across the state at the state-level. Each year we offer a wide array of awards for individuals and member councils. Applications were extended this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we received an impressive number of submissions. We are pleased to announce the recipients for this year’s awards.

Due to their impressive community-wide literacy programming and events, the NYSRA 2020 Literacy Outreach Award is given to a group of teachers from Tuckahoe, New York. They are Kate Arpaia, Alice Benash, Megan Blanchard, Suzanne D'Arco, Danielle Iverson, Evelyn Johnson, Stepahnie Turselli, and Kristin Vincenzi. Nominated by the Tuckahoe High School principal, Dr. Bart Linehan, they showed a diverse set of opportunities offered to their school community to promote literacy. These events encouraged equity, inclusion, and participation by all families.

Next, NYSRA is proud to support three educators with mini-grants. The first is Dr. Sarah Fleming. Dr. Fleming is a high school educator in the Syracuse area, who will be using her mini-grant on a project entitled “Getting Graphic: Using Graphic Novels to Decolonize the Curriculum.” Second is Heidi Clarke, an elementary teacher in Western New York. She will be incorporating STEM learning with literacy in her project, “Subscriptions for Success.” Nicole DeLaney, recipient of the NYSRA Literacy and Technology Mini-Grant, will be implementing her project using virtual learning to offer “Trauma Informed Yoga and Literacy.” We are proud to support these endeavors and hope to highlight these teachers’ projects at future conferences, newsletters, and website updates.

This year’s Senator Donovan Memorial Scholarship is awarded to Rebecca Benjamin. Mrs. Benjamin is a teacher in the Albany area, and will use her scholarship to continue her doctoral studies at SUNY Albany.

NYSRA’s 2020 Friend of Reading Award is given to two individuals who go beyond the bounds of their roles to make sure reading is engaging and enriching the lives of learners. James Conway, the principal of Lake George Elementary School, was nominated on behalf of the Iroquois Reading Council. His efforts as a literacy-focused school leader make him a very deserving awardee. Next, Williamsville Central School District reading teacher Gina Rose Niemel was awarded for her commitment to professional development, training, and being an active voice for literacy not only in her school - but in her commitment to literacy in Western New York.

The 2020 NYSRA Literacy Advocate Award is also given to two individuals this year. Dr. Kelli Garas-York and Dr. Laura Klenk, both professors at SUNY Buffalo State College, work in tandem to produce The Language and Literacy Spectrum. Their work on this important publication drives scholarship on literacy forward in New York State. As a peer-reviewed journal, Dr. Garas-York and Dr. Klenk include theoretical and research articles, with an emphasis on articles related to classroom practice, as well as book reviews of professional texts and children’s literature.

The NYSRA Membership Excellence Award is awarded to Albany City Area Reading Council (ACARC). ACARC demonstrated a significant increase to their membership this past year, including student memberships. By cultivating growth in their member council, ACARC has demonstrated that NYSRA’s member base can be a vibrant community, despite external challenges presented by a global pandemic.

NYSRA Council Service Awards were given to ten individuals that made significant contributions to their member councils. Nominated by their council presidents, the recipients are Yvette Grant (Brooklyn Reading Council), Shelley Fenton (Iroquois Reading Council), Kim Nichols (Iroquois Reading Council), Bonnie Yanklowitz (Iroquois Reading Council), Terri McCarty (Iroquois Reading Council), Linda Carr (Albany Area Reading Council), Heidi Clarke (Niagara Frontier Reading Council), Susan Busch (Niagara Frontier Reading Council), Mary Beth Scumaci (Niagara Frontier Reading Council), and Dr. Roberta Robinson (Nassau Reading Council). The efforts of these individuals are felt at the state level, and they are well-deserving of this recognition.

Finally, we are pleased to announce the NYSRA 2020 Literacy Educator of the Year, Mrs. Shelley Bartolotti. Shelley is a Reading Specialist at Myles Elementary in the New Hartford Central School District. Her work in promoting literacy is evidenced in her school leadership positions, extracurricular support of readers facing school-based literacy challenges, and deep commitment to social-emotional learning. One of her former principals calls Shelley a “tirelessly devoted educator.” Another recommendation shared that “Shelley was able to support her students in recognizing their shared humanity and understanding how we all must work together to make our planet a better place for everyone.” Congratulations to all our awardees. We hope that this will inspire others to apply for the 2021 NYSRA Awards, which will be available on our website soon. Please consider applying or nominating deserving individuals and councils for some of our many offerings.

The complete list of 2020 NYSRA Awards recipients can be found here.

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