2021 Award Winners
Amy Dixon & Evan Burton
It is with great pleasure that we award 2 administrators this year - Amy Dixon and Evan Burton collectively for the Indiana CEC Administrator of the Year Award. These two administrators can’t be singled out as they work collaboratively and effectively together as a team. Mrs. Dixon has been the principal at Northside Middle School for the past 14 years and Mr. Burton has been the Assistant Principal for the past 6 years.
Mrs. Dixon and Mr. Burton are both student-centered and have direct contact with all students in their building on a daily basis. Their collaborative leadership style provides a positive environment for all students and staff within the building.
Together they have created an inclusive environment in which all students thrive by implementing the principles of Universal Design for Learning within their building. They truly take responsibility for their students and provide opportunities for them to succeed. Both Mrs. Dixon and Mr. Burton have created an environment within the school that allows for 100% of students who receive special education support to attend at least one general education class on a daily basis. This highlights their dedication to providing a school culture that supports the educational needs of students within their building. This effort has provided opportunities for both students and staff to learn from one another. Students of all cognitive abilities are learning beside each other and supporting one another throughout the day.
Mrs. Dixon and Mr. Burton have a high degree of competency in addressing the needs of special education students, providing services, thinking critically about how to support students, and helping to develop opportunities for both special education teachers and general education teachers to collaborate on a daily to bi-daily basis.
They collaborate with teachers and brainstorm ways to help kids be successful. They firmly believe all students should have the opportunity to learn next to their peers and that inclusion should be meaningful. It is not uncommon for Mrs. Dixon and Mr. Burton to share their passions with the students and model lessons to provide meaningful learning opportunities for all students. Mrs. Dixon has been known to share her passion for baking with students in the Life Skills classroom and Family and Consumer Science Classes by teaching them to make pumpkin and sugar cream pies. Mr. Burton is known for sharing Tik Tok videos on Thursdays during morning announcements and wears a bow tie every Wednesday as a way to create relationships with the students.
Mrs. Dixon and Mr. Burton provide professional learning opportunities for their staff and encourage all staff to take responsibility for every student within the building. Teachers at Northside perceive special education students and regular education students as one entity and take pride teaching all students within their classrooms.
Both Mrs. Dixon and Mr. Burton's interest in building relationships not only with their staff and students but with parents as well is truly admirable. They effectively communicate, listen, and truly work with parents so that each child can be successful within the school environment. They are very student-centered and want the best possible outcome for each student in their building. Their team approach of working with students, staff and parents has created a welcoming environment for all who enter the building.
Mrs. Dixon and Mr. Burton are exceptional administrators that have made a huge impact in the field of education. It is our pleasure to present Amy Dixon and Evan Burton with the 2021 Outstanding Administrators of the Year.
Sarah Cassavaugh is an IN*SOURCE Advocate for the Lawrence Region which includes Bartholomew, Brown, Lawrence, Jackson, Monroe, Crawford, and Orange Counties. IN*SOURCE is a Parent Information Center for the state of Indiana with the role of equipping families & partnering with professionals to help students with special needs realize their potential.
Mrs. Cassavaugh consistently demonstrates a desire for collecting information to form an accurate picture of how best to serve students while approaching all who are involved with respect and compassion. She is a talented communicator and educator who models her approach through her process. Mrs. Cassavaugh has consistently demonstrated that she is dedicated to advocating for the students that she serves.
At the heart of Mrs. Cassavaugh’s approach is the desire to gain a complete understanding of the student. It is clear that she does not form an opinion of how to best support a student until she has reviewed all the relevant information and spoken with those who are most familiar with the student. Mrs. Cassavaugh is detail oriented and skillful in asking questions. She considers all this information and data before developing a hypothesis.
Mrs. Cassavaugh is an effective communicator and a gifted listener. She listens deeply to both what is said and, at times, not said. Her questions both help her to gain more information while simultaneously shedding light on what needs may be unmet to those being questioned. She will take this information and distill it into a clear message that reflects all perspectives with understanding and respect. This thoughtful listening and rephrasing of ideas with the emphasis of supporting the child has allowed teams working for the benefit of our students to become more understanding of one another and stronger as a whole.
Mrs. Cassavaugh has been endlessly compassionate in her approach. She understands the challenges that teachers face while also supporting guardians who understandably want what is best for their children. Everyone involved in Mrs. Cassavaugh’s process is heard and represented. That feeling of support allows the team to maintain a clear view of what is important, namely, supporting the child.
It is our honor to award the Outstanding Advocate of the Year to Sarah Cassavaugh.
In the movie The Hangover, Zach Galifianakis’ (ga/la/fah/nac/kus) character Alan says, “You guys might not know this, but I consider myself a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack.”
The MSD of Wayne Township has one Thrive Coach, a one woman wolf pack if you will, and her name is Katelyn Hardesty. She serves students from ages 3-22. When the pandemic hit, everyone wondered if we would continue to serve students. Katelyn did not wonder ‘if’ she envisioned ‘how’. She has spent numerous hours learning new online strategies, holding professional learning opportunities and advocating for student success. She has done an outstanding job during this pandemic preparing teachers to teach our most marginalized student population virtually and in person and sometimes simultaneously.
She has been pivotal in MSD Wayne Township in challenging mindsets and increasing skill sets. She has upheld the tenets of the program to: Create a transformational and individualized, student-centered journey that provides greater access to rich and balanced experiences that ensures meaningful outcomes for students after age 22. She has been both relentless and fearless in speaking for those who sometimes cannot speak for themselves.
She is willing to help students whether they qualify for special education or not to ensure that they have appropriate support and the best experience possible. This occurs even when students are not physically located in our buildings - she has proactively partnered with a local ABA center to assist with students who may potentially be Wayne students.
Prior to this new role, Katelyn served as a THRIVE paraeducator and teacher. In just two years, her passion and fierce advocacy has catapulted her into various leadership opportunities. She has presented to Superintendents, Principals and teachers alike. She has shared her work at State Conferences. She is consistently depended upon for her experience and knowledge to support students, staff and families. Her authentic partnership with our families creates an environment that fosters collaboration and trust.
The nominator stated, “I believe that Katelyn’s WHY is in alignment with our district’s: All students deserve an inclusive educational experience that supports them in meeting their individual goals and dreams. Advocating for students in conjunction with multiple stakeholders will help to reduce ableism in our schools and society. Through advocacy we will continue to dismantle inequitable practices and reduce disparate outcomes for students with disabilities.” This also emulates the mission of what our 2021 Distinctive Service of the Year award is about. We would like to honor Katelyn Hardesty with the 2021 Distinctive Service of the Year Award.
Dr. Andrew Marklez
Dr. Andrew Markelz’s vast knowledge and experience with working with persons with disabilities makes him an excellent representative for the Indiana Council for Exceptional Children’s 2021 Outstanding Professor of the Year category. Dr. Markelz teaches a vast array of undergraduate and graduate level special education courses at Ball State University, and he is also the program coordinator for Ball State University’s Director of Special Education licensure program.
Dr. Markelz frequently goes above and beyond what is expected of him within the profession. Through his encouragement and guidance, many of his undergraduate and graduate students, such as myself, pursue additional certifications and degrees which will in turn positively impact persons with disabilities. Dr. Markelz is also actively involved in many professional committees. He is a member of ICASE, a member of the East Director’s Roundtable, and he is an active member of the Council for Exceptional Children. Dr. Markelz presents at many local and national conferences, and is also the founder and editor of the Journal of Special Education Preparation (JOSEP).
Dr. Markelz serves as a role model to many others within the profession. He is very knowledgeable within the field of special education and he is seen as a leader within the community. Dr. Markelz is very passionate about special education advocacy, and he has helped to strengthen the bridge between the medical environment and school community for many students with complex health conditions.
Michelle Curtin, D.O., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics within Indiana University School of Medicine, said this about Dr. Markelz: “Dr. Markelz has been a resource to our team across multiple projects, driving quality improvements to clinical care and spurring our collaborations across disciplines for the care of children throughout Indiana. As a physician who serves children and families with neurodevelopmental disabilities, he has helped push the clinical care process in helping children with medical complexity needing school supports.”
Dr. Markelz has many strengths as an amazing professor, but what makes him extraordinary is his passion for seeing his students succeed. Through his encouragement, feedback, and overall positivity, Dr. Markelz makes his students feel that they matter and that they will make a great impact on the profession. During such a time of uncertainty, Dr. Markelz is the role model that so many of us need. It is with great honor that we present Dr. Andrew Markelz with the 2021 Outstanding Professor of the Year Award.
The CEC Outstanding Student Member of the Year goes to Grace Calabria. Grace is Butler University University's 2020-21 student CEC president. She is a gift to CEC and to our educational world by who she is to us all. We appreciate most of all in how she leads. Grace is the future of what we know to be best practices for all learners. Grace is a secondary English major who took on CEC roles without any minors or majors in special education because that is what she is a person. Her nominator stated, “I have known this wonderful woman since she came to the University in her first year. She really has a mind set for inclusive practices without even working at it; she just does the right thing for all learners in how she thinks. To say Grace has brought a new energy and focus to our student chapter and Butler College of Education over the years is to put it mildly. She makes myself think differently on what the vision of inclusion, leadership, and special education is really about in this world. “ Because she truly comes from a growth mindset , Grace leads with union and inclusivity and a broader vision than just CEC on campus. Grace is an active leader with her sorority, equestrian team, other roles in her writing world as well as CEC student president. She has created an executive team who come from other backgrounds than special education to work within this CEC vision. Her vision is to support them to become stronger leaders in their own educational arenas and help them be their personal best. The nominator further stated, “We all have grown into better thinkers with Grace as an officer the last few years and now as president. That is leadership and what I believe CEC stands for now and into the future. When COVID hit, this team came together and organized ways to still share topics of inclusive practices by podcasts and zoom.” Last year the Butler chapter celebrated 10 years of having an active chapter and we could not have been more proud of the innovative practices led by Grace Calabria this year. We know that she and the leaders she brought alongside her are going to change the world. It is our pleasure to present Grace Calabria with the 2021 CEC Outstanding Student Member of the Year.
Mrs. Traci Henn is the epitome of what an educator strives to be. As the Department Chair of Special Education at Wawasee High School she has led the team with leadership that is praised and recognized by her peers and colleagues. Her guidance and knowledge are forefront in taking initiative to ensure students are receiving the most up to date resources available in Special Education. Traci advocates for the needs of students and for her colleagues. She is resolute when it comes to creating time saving processes such as templates, documents, and spreadsheets that allow teachers to spend more time meeting the needs of students while also guaranteeing they are keeping up with best practices and standards that are ever changing.
Her nominator stated, “As a student myself who Transitioned Into Teaching a few years ago, Traci has been demonstrative of the pedagogy, practices, and rules of law that I was and still am learning. She is an excellent teacher who values serving others. Traci has made a significant impact on my career in education.” She designed and developed one of the most successful programs in our school system. A collaboration of Special Education and CTE that provides students opportunities to learn life skills, job and employment skills, and get hands-on experience through work-based learning. This program is self-sufficient and continues to thrive after three years. We are grateful for her vision and believing in others to help fulfill that vision for students who have gained so much through this program.
Her nominator added, “In all of my life, a professional career prior to education, and now as an educator, I have rarely seen or met someone with such a passion, drive, and excellent work-ethic. She has goals and meets them. She raises the bar for her students and colleagues alike. As she continues to forge ahead the direction for our department, she never turns away a question or a request for help. I could describe Traci in one word, it would be “sparkle”.” That’s what she brings to her students and to those of us that look to her as our leader throughout our state. It is with high regard that we recognize Traci as the 2021 Indiana CEC Special Education Teacher of the Year!
Yosef Solomon is a senior at Ben Davis High School and one of the hardest working young men both academically and athletically. Yosef first off excels academically despite his learning disability; always pushing himself to get the best score or grade possible. While this may not reflect in him being in the Top Thirty (currently ranked 127 of 1077), he many times has missed practice to stay after to work on improving his academics. He currently holds a 4.1 GPA. While many other students are focused on video games, TV shows, etc Yosef has become a dedicated student. He studies and works to be the best student he can be. It’s his other characteristics; however, that make him such a special young man. Running cross country and track, especially distance, requires dedication and perseverance. He is continually trying to improve himself and his times by running every single day. Yosef has dealt with some injury issues over his four years of running. While many athletes would give up, Yosef has always bounced back from the injury ready to train and try and better himself. Yosef has, similar to his academics, always pushed himself to be his best. He went from being an average runner his freshmen year to being our number one runner the past few years on very good teams. He has been instrumental in helping Ben Davis qualify for the Semi-State meet the last 2 years (their first time being back-to-back since the early 2000s.) He also has been All-MIC, All-County, All-Sectional and All-Regional. As you can tell, Yosef is not fine with being mediocre. No matter what it is whether academics, athletics or other areas of life he wants to be the best and do his best. He is very driven to be better and not settle for mediocrity.
In addition to the above listed abilities by Yosef to become a great student and athlete, Yosef is also involved in several other organizations to better himself. He has been a participant and mentor for YOuth Leadership Opportunity (YOLO) due to his leadership abilities. He was also one of only seven juniors at Ben Davis last year chosen to attend the Corteva (formerly DOW Agrosciences) Leadership Initiative with six other high schools like Zionsville, Tindley and others. He stays connected to his Jewish Synagogue giving back and leading there also. He has helped to organize and lead fundraisers and other activities for his synagogue and others around Indianapolis. He also helps outside the school and in our community by volunteering at his local humane society. Being a member of track and cross country, YOLO, and the other organizations listed above, Yosef comes in contact with more than just one clique or group at Ben Davis. This shows the type of well-rounded student and person that he is. It will also serve him well as a class officer and when he attends college. He will be able to work with people from all backgrounds regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, areas of interest, and academic levels. He is the true epitome of a student-athlete - someone who can balance a busy schedule, yet also be successful in all areas that he pursues and not just be average. As you can tell, Yosef demonstrates his traits as a Yes I Can Student everyday. Congratulations, Yosef on being presented the 2021 YES, I CAN! Award for the Indiana Council for Exceptional Children.
2020 Award Winners
2020 Outstanding Administrator of the Year Award Winner
MSD Wayne Township
2020 Outstanding Advocate of the Year
2020 Distinctive Service of the Year Award Winner
Indiana Department of Education - Retired
Dr. Cheryl Bremer
2020 Outstanding Professor of the Year Award Winner
2020 Outstanding Student Member of the Year Award Winner
2020 Special Education Teacher of the Year Award Winner
MSD Washington Township
2020 Yes I Can! Award Winner
Columbus East HS Graduate
2019 Award Winners
Learn more about the Indiana Council for Exceptional Children (INCEC)'s 2019 award winners by watching the 2019 Award Ceremony video and reading more below!
2019 Award Winners
Todd Sheely is a Social Studies teacher at Elkhart Memorial High School and co-teaches with his special education colleagues. In addition to being a teacher, he is a high-school coach, the Director of Olympic/Player Development for Indiana Youth Soccer, and the Unified Track coach of the Elkhart team that were state champions last year. Todd is an outstanding advocate for students with exceptional needs. He raises money for Special Olympics and, in so doing, advocates for students with exceptional needs in a variety of public forums. He graduated from Center Grove in 1997 and IUPUI in 2001, where he is very well-known for his soccer career. He was named the Indiana High School Girls Coach of the Year in 2007 and Center Grove High School Teacher of the Year in 2009. Todd has two sons, Mayson (11) and Brennan (9). He holds a National Youth License and NSCAA Premier Diploma.
Tamra Ummel is the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Professional Development for Goshen Community Schools. Tammy has been a leader in the field of education for many years. As Tammy has moved into various administrative roles, she continues to use her areas of responsibility to influence the general education environment to support children with disabilities and to employ and train educators to serve ALL students. Tammy has been a positive, influential administrator and a leader in the field of special education.
Amanda Lessick is a senior at Grace College completing her B.S. degree with a dual licensure in Elementary Education (K-6) and Mild Intervention (P-12). Amanda has served on the Executive Board of the Grace College Student CEC Chapter for the past two years. She played an integral role in creating and implementing an annual, community-wide dress drive for the Tim Tebow Foundation Night to Shine Event. Amanda was also actively involved in hosting a Transition Exploration Day in which area high-school students with disabilities were invited to participate in a campus-wide event that included Tim Tebow as the keynote speaker, a Transition Expo, lunch, and other events throughout the day. Although Amanda's involvement outside the academic realm has been remarkable, she maintains academic excellence in her college courses. This has been reflected by being on the Dean's List each semester, and most currently on the Honor's List. She was recently inducted into Alpha Chi Honor Society for her academic achievement and character, and has also done a remarkable job as a student teacher.
Austin is a ninth grade student at Ben Davis Ninth Grade Center in the MSD Wayne Township. Austin is an amazing student. He never lets any task intimidate him. Whether it's his class work, access to the community, or sports, Austin attacks it with gusto. He never lets failure get in his way. If he doesn't succeed the first time, he doubles down and tries harder the next time. He is a star in the classroom but also in our entire community. Austin asks for no alterations when completing activities and very rarely asks for help. Whether it is wrestling or dancing, he gives it his all and genuinely has fun doing it. He comes every day to the Ben Davis High School wrestling practice and greets every member of the team as they enter the door with a smile and a high-five. He then works hard to overcome physical barriers in order to practice a sport he loves. His attitude shows that he loves being part of the wrestling team, and the team is happy to have him be a team member. He is internally motivated to better himself every day and a positive force for his peers and teachers. He is such a kind, happy boy who is always willing to give you hug. He is empathetic towards others and wants to see his peers succeed. Austin is type of person that brightens your day just by being in his presence. You can't walk down the hall with him without one of his friends stopping to talk with him. Austin demonstrates his traits as a Yes I Can student everyday.
Jennifer Volheim is a paramedic for Wayne Township Fire Department. Jennifer is passionate and responsive to our students with disabilities as well as those who sometimes struggle with challenges in their lives. One example of that was when she responded to a suicide threat of one student late at night. When she found out that non of his family members were willing to go with him to the hospital, she spent the entire night with him so he wouldn't be alone. During this time, she learned how special he was and how difficult his home life was. She rallied her family around him and they all pitched in to provide a wonderful Christmas for him. She regularly checks on him and has made such a difference in his life! This emulates what our 2019 Distinctive Service of the Year Award is about.
Dr. Denise Whitford
Dr. Denise Whitford was nominated on behalf of the Awards Committee for the Department of Special Education at Purdue University. Dr. Whitford is an exceptional professor. She specializes in school discipline disproportionality as it related to underreported student populations. She is particularly interested in a) investigating patterns of disproportionality, b) examining the effects of disproportionality on student achievement, post-academic outcomes, and emotional well-being, and c) determining methods for decreasing disproportionality in K-12 settings. As a co-advisor for the Purdue Chapter and previous treasurer for INCEC, she has not only lead at the state level, but also serves as part of the Diversity Committee at a National level. She is an outstanding professor advocating for our mission and vision. Dr. Whitford received her Ph.D. in Special Education with an emphasis in Emotional and Behavioral Disorders from the University of Arizona. She's also received two masters—one in Special Education from San Francisco State University and one in Social Work from the University of Hawaii—and her Bachelors in Psychology from University of California, Riverside.
Julie Brummett is a developmental preschool teacher at Eastside Elementary in Edinburgh, IN. As an employee of Earlywood Educational Services Interlocal Cooperative, Mrs. Brummett has served preschool children with disabilities and their families for over eighteen years. Mrs. Brummet consistently demonstrates her knowledge, skill, and sensitivity in teaching students with exceptional needs. Step through the door to her classroom and one will instantly observe the implementation of evidence-based practices to support her students' learning. Mrs. Brummett consistently goes above and beyond what is expected of a proficient professional in the field. Mrs. Brummett is sensitive to the needs, questions, and concerns of families who are new to special education services. Additionally, Mrs. Brummett is a role model and inspiration to others. She's hosted many visits to her classroom and patiently shares her methods for planning, implementing, and evaluating preschool instruction. Mrs. Brummett readily volunteers to assist new teachers with the IIEP system, navigating ISTAR-KR, and just generally being available to answer questions and offer support. Two years ago, Mrs. Brummett requested that we re-engage a professional learning community for the special education preschool teachers within our member districts. She felt that the need of these teachers was different from other educators and that they could benefit from professional development unique to their students. The Preschool PLC has been active for two years and is greatly valued by the members. Julie is an outstanding educator who quietly works to ensure her students have an exceptional early childhood education in order to prepare them to be integrated into a general education kindergarten.