Brilliant. Innovative. Passionate. These are just a few of the words used to describe CEC's 2008 Clarissa Hug Teacher of the Year, Dr. Sheila Amato. Dr. Amato's strength as a teacher stemps from her philosophy of education. Every child has the right to be taught by a teacher who believes in him or her. Dr. Amato should have added that the teacher be innovative, know the best instructional strategies, be determined to ensure students have - and teach - their dreams, and be a mentor and advocate. Dr. Amato, who teachers students who are blind or visually impaired for the East Meadow School District in East Meadow, New York, does all this and more.
Dr. Amato uses real-life activities to help her students develop the knowledge and skills they will need in school and afterwards. She ensures her students, who attend district schools, learn the core curriculum and compensatory skills that enable them to participate in higher education or vocational ventures. Dr. Amato's students regularly succeed in general education classes and perform activities others believe will be impossible for them, such as creating a visual economics display and marching in teh band. Her students also excel academically, earning the coveted Regent's Diploma. In addition, two of Dr. Amato's students qualified for the National Braille Challenge.
Dr. Amato advocates for the Braille Code and forged new directions for this communications system. Library of Congress Braille certified, Dr. Amato prepares materials in Braille for her students. In addition, she developed a program to teacher Braille transcripton to students and organized a regional Braille Challenge - a first for Long Island. And, Dr. Amato made recommendations for expanding and standardizing the preparation of teachers in Braille Code.
Dr. Amato shares her knowledge generously. She has taught at the university level for more than 10 years, and she has made presentations throughout the country. Dr. Amato is also a respected author and is the editor of the Division on Visual Impairments Quarterly.
Dr. Amato has received several awards for her work as a special educator, but none speaks louder than a student who summarized the exceptional educator that is Dr. Amato: "I knew I could try anything, because Dr. Amato would always be available to help me work out any problems I might run into."
2008 - Donna McNear
Pictured: CEC Outstanding Leadership Award winner Donna McNear with Past-President Ellyn Ross.
CEC is proud to recognize Donna McNear as its 2008 Outstanding Leadership Award recipient. Ms. McNear is a teacher who has achieved national recognition as a leader in visual impairment education. Her service to CEC and the field has resulted in improved educational practices for children with visual impairments, teacher training, professional standards, and national reform initiatives. Through her work, Ms. McNear has established collaborative relationships, within and without the field of blindness, to benefit educational services to children with visual disabilities.
Ms. McNear began her role as a volunteer leader on her district's Technology Partnership Force, Mentorship Committee, and Staff Development Committee. In 1988, when Ms. McNear was elected President of CEC's Minnesota Division for the Visually Handicapped, her work encompassed the state. Ms. McNear shared her experience and knowledge of the education of children with visual disabilities to, among others, Minnesota's State Vision Network; Minnesota Resource Center Low Vision Work Group; Minnesota Department of Education Task Force on Educadtion of Children with Disabilities; and Child Rehabilitation Program Task Force, State Services for the Blind.
At the national and international levels, Ms. McNear's expertise has proven invaluable for CEC and the field. Ms. McNear served as President of CEC's Division on Visual Impairments, helping grow the division and promote its work. Through her service with the INTASC Standards for Students with Disabilities and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, she contributed to the development of two national standards initiatives. In addition, Ms. McNear helped guide policy development through her service to the Center for Teacher Quality and the Steering Committee for the National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youth with Visual Impairments. Ms. McNear is also a Peer Review Panel Member of the U.S. Department of Education and a peer reviewer for the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness.
Further, Ms. McNear is director of Micronesia Missions, which serves children with visual impairments in the Federated States of Micronesia.