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New York State Reading Association 2020-2021 Award Recipients

  Literacy Outreach Award Winner: Emily Katebini, At-Large Member

Emily Katebini is a New York City schoolteacher and president of her own literacy company, Katebini Creative. Emily earned her bachelors degree from the University of Colorado in Boulder, where she studied Anthropology. After graduating, she moved with her (now) husband to Saint Louis, Missouri. While he was attending graduate school she entered the world of working with children as an after-school teacher at the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma. This is where she discovered her love of teaching, and the power of story. She learned that literacy truly and immutably changes children’s lives for the better. 

Currently, Emily offers literacy professional development and coaching services to New York City community schools. She has found her life’s calling, and thoroughly enjoys sharing high quality teaching practices with other educators. When she’s not teaching or coaching you may find her at some NYSRA events, hiking with her husband in near-by states, or shopping at the Green Market in Union Square.

  Senator Donovan Memorial Scholarship Winner: Anemonë Zeneli, Central NY Reading Council

Anemonë is a Ph.D. candidate in Teaching and Curriculum at Syracuse University. Her current research focuses on Kosovar teachers' understanding of and engagement with literacy and critical literacy education. Anemonë will use the Senator Donovan Memorial Scholarship to continue her doctoral studies at SU.

Anemonë's work focuses on the use the juxtaposition of text to (a) critically engage students with historical nonfiction and (b) increase students’ interest  in classics by pairing it with young adult literature. She proposes two teaching activities as two of the many ways that teachers can engage students in reading interesting and culturally relevant texts that aim to further develop students’ literacy skills in alignment with the reading and writing anchor standards. These teaching activities are grounded in principles of social and sociocultural theories, recognizing that a meaningful learning approach positions the student as an active participant in the learning process and contextualizes the learning experience to the student’s  home and community literacies and life experience.

  Literacy Educator of the Year Winner: Lori Gaenzler, Rochester Area Reading Council

Lori Gaenzler, a lifelong resident of Greece, NY has had the privilege of working for Greece Central School District for 37 years. Her numerous roles have included classroom teacher, Reading Specialist, Mentor, and District Literacy Interventionist. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in General Education from SUNY Brockport, a Masters from Nazareth College in Reading, and certification in Reading Recovery.

Lori has appreciated her many roles in education, but she was most passionate in her role as District Literacy Interventionist. She enjoyed coaching and co-teaching with teachers. It gave her the ability to work with students across all grade levels. Her participation and facilitation of department, building and district-level committees not only allowed her to share her educational experiences but to learn from her colleagues. Her overall goal has been to have her students be excited about reading and writing. She always looks forward to being a part of that learning.

In her free-time, Lori enjoys cooking healthy meals, baking, bike riding, and of course reading. Educational materials, mysteries, and sappy love stories are her favorites. She has two grown children, Tyler and Laura and the love of her life husband, Rich.

  Friend of Reading Award Winner
Cindy Schwind, Rochester Area Reading Council

Cindy Schwind has been an educator at Greece Central School District for 33 years. She began her career as a classroom teacher in first grade for 8 years and fifth grade for 2 years, and was a Reading Specialist for sixteen years. Cindy then went on to be a District Literacy Interventionist working with students and coaching teachers from Kindergarten up to Middle School. Cindy received her BS degree in Developmental Behavioral Disabilities from Suny Brockport and her Masters in Reading from Nazareth College. She is also certified in Reading Recovery.

Cindy continues to firmly believe that successfully teaching students to read starts with the book. Bringing that love of reading into the classrooms of any grade, modeling that enjoyment and excitement for books, is the very first step.

Cindy is also very active on Twitter where you can find her offering great books for you

  Literature Based Mini-Grant Winner: Janeen Pizzo, Rochester Area Reading Council

Janeen Pizzo is an exuberant, highly energetic and engaging educator who worked as an English and literacy teacher for 14 years. Now in her 17th year, she is engaging pre-service teachers and their students in the field of literacy at SUNY Brockport. Her passions are deeply rooted in current, research-based, literacy education and helping students of all ages realize their capabilities and to exceed their own expectations. As an ISTE Certified Educator, she understands the benefits of instructional technology in the classroom. She believes all educators have the power and moral obligation to help students better their future lives through progressive, differentiated, and research-based instruction. 

In her project,  teacher candidates in a disciplinary literacy course will read three YA texts for their classroom library. Candidates will share the texts they read with their peers, from all content areas, and create a collaborative document that they can all reference as a resource for adding texts to their classroom libraries. Book talk posters will also be created and linked in this resource so students can post YA titles in their room, even if they don’t have the text on hand. Explicit guidance will be provided on how to give a book talk, how to connect with your school’s librarian to support student literacy, and what a robust, inclusive classroom library includes. Connecting this work to their own reading lives will also be an important part of this work. Teacher candidates will assess their own reading habits and consider their own experiences with texts as students.

  Council Service Award Winner:
Jack Agugliaro, Niagara Frontier Reading Council

Jack A. Agugliaro is a retired reading specialist who taught in the Reading Lab at North Tonawanda High School for thirty-eight years. During his tenure, he joined the Niagara Frontier Reading Council to learn and share in the teaching of reading. He encouraged reading by being an advisor on the school newspaper, acting in and directing plays in community and professional venues and by being active in his local council.

 currently participates in Niagara Frontier Reading Council activities by being the recording and corresponding secretary, liaison chair and the Spotlight online newsletter editor. Additionally, he often presents as a leader for the professional book discussion group.

  Council Service Award Winner:
Maxine Rappaport, Brooklyn Reading Council

Reading was Maxine's road to adventure. She was always curious and full of questions, so her mom took her to the library and I got a card. It was a ticket to a very special place

Maxine joined the Brooklyn Reading Council in 2009 and was a classroom teacher and school librarian in New York City. It has been a joy to serve on the board and participate in our events as we share our love of reading❤️❗

Maxine's favorite quote is: "I have lived a thousand lives and I've loved a thousand loves. I've walked on distant worlds and seen the end of time. Because I read." (George R.R. Martin)

  Council Service Award Winner:
Traci Cillis, Mid-Hudson Reading Council

Traci Cillis graduated from Marist College with a degree in Psychology.  She is a certified Elementary Teacher N-6 and a certified Special Education Teacher K -12. In addition, she received her Masters of Education in Literacy from Mount St. Mary College. She is a certified Reading Teacher. She has been a teacher for the past 18 years and has taught grades 1, 2, 3, and 4. Traci started her career as a Special Education Teacher in the Beacon City School District. She is currently a first grade Regular Education Teacher at Krieger Elementary School in the Poughkeepsie City School District and has been there for the past 15 years.

She enjoys spending time with her husband and her daughter, Madison. She spends her time bike riding, reading, golfing, and taking long walks.

  Literacy Advocate Award
Rebecca Benjamin, Albany City Area Reading Council

Rebecca Benjamin earned her Ph.D. from the Department of Education Theory and Practice, at the State University of New York at Albany. She is a Literacy Specialist in the Schenectady City School District, where she has organized literacy grant projects to improve school climate and learning practices, provided student trips and experiences, and run after-school/lunch opportunities for students to write and publish books.

Rebecca is also the organist at Niskayuna Reformed Church. Rebecca has served as a President of the Albany City Area Reading Council, and the Eastern Regional Director for New York State Reading Association. A conference presenter on topics of education, literacy, and music, some of Rebecca's work can be found at As an Adirondack 46er and Catskill 35er, Rebecca also enjoys hiking, bicycling, and running

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