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2023 Award Recipients

Past Award Recipients

Lynn Ziraldo Advocacy Award

Shirley Kendrick (Chapter 391)

Shirley Kendrick (Chapter 391)

Shirley Kendrick is a long-time educator with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board. She has held roles as a teacher, school and system leader and Superintendent of Special Education and Support Services. Her positions in the Ontario Ministry of Education included curriculum, assessment and student success, special education policy, field services and mental health branches serving in several directorship capacities including Assistant Deputy Minister. 

Shirley has recently retired and continues her professional and personal commitment influence in mentorship, stewardship and service. She is an outstanding leader and advocate for students and their families. Shirley is an avid learner with deep reflective insight and is an exceptional role model in both her professional and personal life. She is a long-standing member of the Council for Exceptional Children recognizing the importance of a professional organization, networking, supporting the CEC Conference, School & Board engagement and student support through Ontario CEC. Shirley Kendrick truly embodies Lynn Ziraldo’s spirit and qualities, and she is most deserving of the Lynn Ziraldo Advocacy Award.


The President’s Award to a Partner in Education

Paul Woods (Chapter 543)

Paul Woods (Chapter 543)

In his 31 years as an educator and leader, Paul has devoted his entire career to the service of advocating for learners with diverse identities. Paul has held a number of roles in more than one school district including the role of a teacher, school-based vice principal and principal, Principal of Inclusive Schools, and most recently, Principal of Student Services for Blind Low Vision and Deaf and Hard of Hearing in the York Region District School Board.  In all these capacities, Paul has shared the vision that “Inclusion is not bringing people into what already exists; it is making a new space, a better space for everyone.” (George Dei). Paul uses his agency to give voice to those who may not feel comfortable or equipped to leverage their voice to have their rights understood and met. Equity and inclusion are values that are close to his heart and he demonstrates these values in a range of spaces with a number of people. As a true champion for learners, his leadership has been one that centers humanity and exudes compassion. He models responsibility, inclusivity, resiliency, optimism and, above all, kindness to all.  Ontario Council of Exceptional Children is pleased to recognize Paul Woods with the President’s Award to a Partner in Education. 


The President’s Award to a CEC Member

Amy Thorne (Chapter 289)

Amy Thorne (Chapter 289)

A dedicated educator with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board as the Elementary Social Communication Program Teacher, Amy thoroughly enjoys her role with the children and always finds a way to celebrate the unique gifts of each child. Amy demonstrates leadership in her capacity as an educator, has mentored other educators, and has led workshops and professional learning on the topic of social communication. Amy has been a member of the CEC for 6 years and serves as the technology lead for the Hamilton Chapter 289. She regularly attends meetings and is a notable and valuable contributor to the Executive Committee. In addition, she is very active as a member at large. Amy has been recognized as an innovator and a leader in the field of technology and special education. She took the initiative to organize the Chapter’s files, and maintains and monitors the records on behalf of the Executive Committee. She has shown great leadership in sharing her expertise with the database and constantly seeks the input of members on ways to improve the data collection. Ontario Council of Exceptional Children is pleased to recognize Amy Thorne with the President’s Award to a CEC member.


Business, Agency and Community Award (Chapter 543)

FreshCo Vaughan – Mike Mazzone

FreshCo Vaughan – Mike Mazzone

Mike Mazzone, the owner of FreshCo at Major Mackenzie and Weston Road in Vaughan, and the employees at FreshCo provide a welcoming and inclusive experience for all students. At FreshCo, students are given many opportunities to learn different skills and increase their independence and self-confidence. FreshCo is an extremely busy store; however, each day they always make time to support and teach the students when they come in for work experience. Working with an amazing community partner, like FreshCo, enables students to be a part of their community and build skills and experiences that will help them for years to come. Mike Mazzone and all the staff at FreshCo continue to inspire students to believe they can. FreshCo’s commitment to supporting students in an inclusive workplace experience makes them a deserving recipient of the Ontario CEC Business, Agency and Community Award.


Paraprofessional of the Year Award (Chapter 56)

Fazilat Koser

Fazilat Koser

Fazilat Koser works as a Special Needs Assistant at North Kipling Junior Middle School in Toronto. She has an exceptional work ethic and always has the best interests of all the students in mind. She listens and understands the needs of each of the students and can calm the students, allowing them to attend and learn. The students love working with Fazilat. No matter how challenging the students’ needs are, Fazilat perseveres and constantly implements new strategies, such as daily task cards or timers. Fazilat has attended parent-teacher interviews and demonstrates her knowledge and kindness to parents. The parents and staff respect her expertise. She truly goes above and beyond her role and assists teachers when working in the classroom. Fazilat’s dedication and commitment make her a deserving recipient of the Ontario CEC Paraprofessional of the Year Award.


Paraprofessional of the Year Award (Chapter 543)

Tammy Richardson

Tammy Richardson

Tammy Richardson is an Intensive Support Worker at Mount Albert Public School in the York Region District School Board. Tammy’s dedication to students is demonstrated in so many ways. As the equity designate, she is an advocate for equity, inclusion and accessibility. She reflects on and challenges current school and classroom practices to ensure they reflect students’ strengths, needs and identities. She ensures students in the community class are receiving meaningful programming and support, and sets high standards for every student. Tammy works collaboratively with integration teachers and spends endless hours making certain that students have a memorable experience. She works with the most vulnerable students and ensures they are supported, included and cared for. Students with exceptionalities are always at the heart of Tammy’s actions; students and their families have benefitted from Tammy’s empathy, guidance and compassion. Tammy truly loves her job and it is apparent in everything she does. It is with pleasure to present the Paraprofessional of the Year Award to Tammy Richardson.



Teacher of the Year Award (Chapter 543)

Daniela Sambolec

Daniela Sambolec

Daniela is a teacher and Special Education Department Head at St. Brother Andre in the York Catholic District School Board. From the onset of her time in Special Education, Daniela has shown dedication and enthusiasm as an educator and genuine care and support for exceptional students. She is able to balance the administrative piece of running a cohesive department along with the direct teaching of the Functional Life Skills program while planning and providing important and engaging lessons focused on both the skills of daily living and social engagement. She is the true definition of making all of the people around her feel included, equal and heard. She works nonstop to ensure the quality of education for students, essential communication with the parents and the maintenance of a pristine partnership with our community members. Daniela puts smiles on everyone's faces because she truly enjoys the important work she does, and it is a pleasure to present her with the Teacher of the Year Award. 


Teacher of the Year Award (Chapter 56)

Susan Mervin Sembaj

Susan Mervin Sembaj

Kenn Kloby Award Recipient

Susan Sembaj is a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, at both the elementary and secondary levels, at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. She is an exemplary teacher and a strong advocate for students and their families. Throughout Susan’s career she has shown remarkable dedication in her role as Special Education Teacher and Teacher of the Deaf, both in congregated settings and in the mainstream. She has contributed to the educational growth, literacy, and learning of exceptional students. She has supported, encouraged and empowered her students to be successful. Susan’s teaching and leadership have positively impacted and touched the lives of exceptional children and youth. While she works with her students, she offers advice and guidance to both teachers and families. She understands that it is not only the student that is impacted by the hearing impairment but also the families who require support. She is an outstanding teacher and very deserving of the Teacher of the Year Award.


Educational Leader of the Year Award (Chapter 391)

Meghan Echlin

Meghan Echlin

Meg recently completed her term as Coordinating Principal with the Peel District School Board. She has worked endless hours supporting students with special needs and their families. Her leadership skills empower her team to make a difference in the education of these students.  Included among the many projects in which Meg took a leadership role and/or participated in are the integration of Special Education students into Secondary school programs, support of the Student Success Planning Framework to create understanding of individualized assessment and programming to inform IEP development, development of Alternative Learning Environment and Specialized Equipment guidelines and an online SEA Equipment System, implementation of student accessibility in board facilities, developing a pathway to support students with FASD, and the development of an electronic transportation process. She listens to parents, support staff and colleagues to respond to the unique challenges of students, so that all may experience success. Meg was recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and understands first-hand some of the challenges that students with disabilities face every day. Her grit and determination are admirable. She is an exceptional individual and a passionate, caring and outstanding leader in education. Meghan Echlin is most deserving of the Educational Leader of the Year Award.


Educational Leader of the Year Award (Chapter 289)

Tracey Brown

Tracey Brown

Irene Mackowski Award Recipient

Tracey Brown is an outstanding principal and professional who shows care and concern for all students and families.  As principal of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Elementary School in Hamilton she works diligently to enhance the success and well-being of all students and staff in an inclusive school system. Tracey’s long-range goal is to make St. Kateri truly accessible and meet the diverse needs of all students. Every year Tracey has set aside funds to add sensory and learning items to the school that will help all students learn. As a previous Special Education Resource Teacher Tracey has led transition planning for special needs students. She worked on the transition document to ensure consistent implementation of PPM156 and PPM 140. Additionally, Tracey ensures that IEP goals are measurable and attainable so that students can be successful. Tracey Brown’s dedication, passion and commitment make her a deserving recipient of the Ontario CEC Educational Leader of the Year Award. 


Educational Leader of the Year Award (Chapter 543)

Wendy Britt-Steiner

Wendy Britt-Steiner

Over the course of 34 years in education, Wendy Britt-Steiner has inspired and enriched staff and student learning in all of the roles she has held. As a Classroom Teacher, Special Education Teacher, Department Head, and as Special Education Program Consultant, Wendy has consistently demonstrated inclusive practices and has advocated for the students who needed her to be their voice when they struggled to use their own. Wendy has also worked tirelessly to create a broad range of Special Education resources to support YCDSB’s secondary Special Education Programs and she has played a fundamental role within many different committees whose primary goal is always the same: to foster student success and well being in an inclusive and equitable environment. Wendy was also recognized for her contributions to the Aurora Youth Soccer Club’s Stinger Stars program, a summer soccer program for students with disabilities. Wendy’s overall impact on YCDSB staff, students, families and the York Region community is quite a legacy to leave behind, as she ends an extraordinary career in education.


Educational Leader of the Year Award (Chapter 56)

Rebecca Ansle

Rebecca Ansley (posthumous)

Rebecca always set a very high standard for achievement for students with complex needs. In her central roles she helped to establish the TDSB's alternative curriculum for students with developmental and physical disabilities. Her recent work centered on how to ensure that learning goals were functional for students’ post-graduation. Rebecca maintained a high standard for professional collaboration by creating learning opportunities, not only for teachers, but also educational assistants. Her efforts resulted in highly effective multi-disciplinary classroom teams that could adapt quickly to changing student needs. During the three years of the pandemic, she ensured that TDSB families had the hands-on materials and devices required to make online learning engaging and relevant for students with special needs. She worked hard to solve the many transportation issues that often cause students with complex needs to miss school. During the height of the pandemic, when only schools serving students with complex needs in Developmental Disability programs remained open, Rebecca worked with Public Health to secure in-school vaccination clinics, to enhance protocols and partnered with hospitals to run pilot programs, so staff had access to the best available equipment at the time. A Principal extraordinaire and an outstanding individual, Rebecca’s legacy is what she modeled every day for students and staff. “Joy does not simply happen to us. We must choose joy and keep choosing it every day”. (Henri Nouwen). 


Yes I Can! Parent Award (Chapter 543)

Allan Steven

Allan Steven – Christine Steven

As strong parent advocates, Allan and Christine have worked closely with the school team and board staff in the York Catholic District School Board to ensure a smooth and successful transition to high school for their son, Sean. They always encourage him to participate, communicate and try new things. Allan and Christine frequently contribute to school initiatives such as Capes for Kids, school parties and the life skills programs. Every weekend, Sean's parents take him to downtown Toronto to watch live sports games such as the Toronto Football Club, Marlies, and Argonauts. To share in Sean’s enjoyment, the family treated the life skills staff, students, and their families at St. Maximilian Kolbe CHS to box seats at a Marlies game. Everyone enjoyed the snacks, socialization, and hockey and it was definitely great fun for all. Sean's parents very kindly organized another Marlies game in April for all of Sean's classmates. On top of all they do, Sean's parents support Easter Seals, "a charitable organization that is dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth with long-term physical disabilities", and help raise money for the organization. In the winter of 2022, Sean raised $5800 for the Toronto Maple Leafs Skate for Easter Seals campaign. Allan and Christine are most deserving of the Ontario CEC Parent of the Year Award. 

Christine Steven







CEC Lifetime Achievement Award 

Dr. Ashleigh Molloy

Dr. Ashleigh Molloy

Ashleigh Molloy, affectionately known as Dr. Ash, is currently a professor with Niagara University in the Teacher Education Department. Additionally, Dr. Ash is the founder and president of Transformation Education International, a global leader in transformative professional development; as such he is an energized, motivated leader in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. Dr. Ash has devoted himself to the public good by building a community that includes ALL; he is focused on driving innovation and delivering measurable results towards managing a sustainable transformation in education worldwide.

As a professional with extensive experience traversing three decades, Dr. Ash has worked with school boards, governments, NGOs, and corporations around the world. Dr. Ash has consulted and facilitated training in over 22 states and provinces and presented globally in 20 countries. Additionally, he served as a Panel Chair and speaker at the World Down Syndrome Conference held at the United Nations in New York and the World Down Syndrome Congress in both Vancouver and Dublin.

For over 20 years, Dr. Ash has been actively involved with CEC, at the local level serving as Chapter 56 liaison to the Toronto Catholic DSB SEAC, and on the Ontario CEC Board of Directors, serving as a member-at-large and as President in 2010. Additionally, Dr. Ash has maintained involvement with CEC’s Division on International Special Education Services.

Dr. Ash is highly regarded as a global humanitarian, who has been recognized locally, provincially, nationally, and internationally with over 50 awards and commendations, most notably the Ontario CEC Educational Leader of the Year in 2007, the Order of Ontario Medal for Leadership in Educational and Humanitarian Outreach in 2006, and in 2012, the Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal

Ontario CEC is delighted to acknowledge and celebrate Dr. Ash’s dedication to the field of special education with this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award!


Yes I Can! Student Awards - Academics

Faruq Mohammed

Faruq Mohammed - Chapter 56/Ontario DADD Subdivision

Faruq was a student of West Humber when he was nominated for the Yes I Can Award in Academics. Faruq Mohammed takes his education and learning seriously. He comes to school each day with eagerness and a positive outlook. His outlook on school and desire to challenge himself each day makes him a role model to other students.



Great-Rousseau Matakala Nkosi

Great-Rousseau Matakala Nkosi  - Chapter 289

Great-Rousseau was a student of Annunciation of Our Lord when she was nominated for the Yes I Can Award in Academics.  She is an enthusiastic learner and brings energy to her work and the environment. She completes rote tasks with increasing independence and accuracy and works well as part of a group. She is a highly valued member of her class and school. 



Hank Liang

Hank Liang - Chapter 543

Hank was a student of St. Joseph the Worker when he was nominated for the Yes I Can Award in Academics.  Hank has demonstrated high academic achievement, particularly in the area of mathematics.  Hank has volunteered to help mentor a peer at his school who requires assistance with math. He does this on his own time at recess in the core classroom. Way to go Hank!


Yes I Can! Student Awards - Arts

Zachary Bucknol

Zachary Bucknol  - Chapter 56/Ontario DLL Subdivision

Zachary was a student of West Humber when he was nominated for the Yes I Can Award for Arts. Zachary showed an affinity toward all things musical, from celebratory classroom sing-alongs to singing, dancing and listening to music. His ability to play by ear is amazing.  He has been integrated into the mainstream Percussion course. Zachary joined the class with confidence and independence and quickly became a leader.  He is thriving in this class in performance, memorization of class material and participation. He is performing at the level of the top students in the course.



Yes I Can! Student Awards - School & Community

Alan Chen

Alan Chen - Chapter 543

Alan was a student at Armadale when he was nominated for a Yes I Can Award in School and Community.  Alan was involved in his school community by volunteering to support the athletics and activities teams at Armadale. He would set up the snack table to sell food for school tournaments, set up the gym with all the necessary equipment, keep score during games, and cheer on the team.  Alan was also a member of the basketball team and a positive role model to his peers. He is tech savvy and willingly helps anyone to solve any tech issues. Continue to shine bright, Alan!



Kiana Prezens

Kiana Prezens - Chapter 543/OCASE

Kiana was a student at All Saints when she was nominated for a Yes I Can Award in School and Community.  Kiana worked diligently to support her school community and the community at large. She created Kiana’s Magical Cookies and fund-raised money to support a community in Cambodia. She is a Positive Play Ambassador for younger students and continues to support her school community. Way to go Kiana!



Yes I Can! Student Awards - Self-Advocacy


Daniela Tarantino

Daniela Tarantino - Chapter 543/Ontario DADD Subdivision

Daniela was a student at St. Jean de Brebeuf when she was nominated for a Yes I Can Award in Self-Advocacy. As part of Daniela’s work placement, she worked at No Frills and Shoppers Drug Mart. Through this work experience, Daniela showed tremendous growth in her ability to communicate more effectively and independently within the community. She takes great pride in learning new skills and has demonstrated outstanding progress with her self-advocacy skills.


David Lai

David Lai - Chapter 289/Ontario DLL Subdivision

David was a student at Cathy Wever when he was nominated for the Yes I Can Award in Self-Advocacy.  David is an outgoing, cheerful and friendly student who comes to school daily with a positive attitude, willing to learn. No matter what he is presented with or any challenges that come his way he consistently speaks his mind to gain clarity and does his best on a regular basis to follow rules, do the right thing and be kind. Way to go David! Keep Shining!


Murathan Tekin

Murathan Tekin - Chapter 543

Murathan attended Richmond Green when he was nominated for a Yes I Can Award in Self-Advocacy. At his work experience placement at Plato’s Closet, he demonstrated enthusiasm, determination and a positive work ethic. Murathan also successfully interviewed for the Pathways to Employment and Applied Knowledge (PEAK) program, supporting his transition to life after secondary school. He has developed positive self-advocacy skills and understands the importance of setting health-related goals to improve his fitness and mental wellness. As a result of his own goal setting, Murathan grew the confidence to present to his class and encourage others to set goals and develop a plan to achieve them.


Sean denOuden

Sean denOuden  - Chapter 289

Sean was a student of Sir William Osler when he was nominated for the Yes I Can Award in Self-Advocacy.  Sean has shown excellent self-advocacy. When challenged, Sean does not give up but seeks out support, expresses his concerns and takes the appropriate next steps. Seeing Sean take initiative, set goals and speak up for himself is inspiring and shows just how powerful self-advocacy can be.




Yes I Can! Student Awards - Technology

Alexander Engelhardt

Alexander Engelhardt - Chapter 289

Alex was a student of St. Michael when he was nominated for the Yes I Can Award in Technology. Through inclusive interaction in the classroom he is challenged by other students, which has led him to achieve high marks in mathematics. Alex has become confident and successful when doing mathematics, and this in turn has assisted him to form positive relationships with his peers. He helps other students in the classroom if they are struggling with a mathematical concept. With prompting he can explain the task and he is respectful of the adults who work with him.


Connor Goodwin

Connor Goodwin  - Chapter 543/Ontario DLL Subdivision 

Connor was a student at German Mills when he was nominated for a Yes I Can Award in Technology.  Connor proudly advocates for himself using his proloquo2go communication device, his SEA computer and his daily schedule.  Connor’s ability to make his wants and needs known has certainly grown and expanded over the years. Through daily practice with technology, he has learned that he has a voice to agree or disagree, make choices and requests, as well as interact with classmates with greater independence.  Connor’s use of technology has opened up a whole new world of opportunities to engage and share his voice. 



Yes I Can! Student Awards - Transitions

CEC Ontario 67

Adnan Gure - Chapter 56

Adnan was a student of North Kipling Junior Middle School when he was nominated for the Yes I Can Award for Transitions.  Grade one was a transformational year for Adnan. He started to say words and interact with staff. He used his words to ask for things and provide an answer when asked a question! He began to do math and reading activities. He was lining up with the class, following instructions and class routines and eating lunch with his classmates. Adnan has continued to make tremendous progress. 


Biruk Solomon

Biruk Solomon - Chapter 56

Biruk was a student of St. Boniface Catholic School when he was nominated for the Yes I Can Award for Transitions. Biruk has made three remarkable transitions: firstly to Canada from Ethiopia, secondly to an English language learner and thirdly to wearing hearing aids. Wearing hearing aids to access the curriculum was initially a challenge to Biruk but he persevered in learning to hear, speak and proudly express himself. He now makes friends and displays his kindness and respect for others through his words and actions. He eagerly accesses hearing assistance technology. Biruk's enthusiasm, hard work and drive to succeed have supported his successful transition to Canada, speaking English and learning like a champion.


Liam Spice

Liam Spice - Chapter 56/OCASE

Liam was a student of Gracefield Public School when he was nominated for the Yes I Can Award in Transitions.  He quickly became a leader in the school.  He attends leadership meetings where he offers his ideas and assistance. Liam is considerate of the primary students, providing them with assistance. Liam shows school spirit by participating in special school days such as dressing up for spirit days and participating in the school's Winterfest.


Teddy O’Brien

Teddy O’Brien - Chapter 56

Teddy was a student of Lucy McCormick when he was nominated for the Yes I Can Award for Transitions. Following hip surgery in 2109, Teddy had to re-learn how to walk.   His determination and perseverance paid off, in October of 2022 he began pushing himself forward: Walking! Teddy is now travelling daily to the office, other classrooms and around the school's outdoor track. He enjoys the physical movement, social interactions and encouragement he receives from all the staff and students at the school who acknowledge his achievements.

2022 Award Ceremony Photo Album


Lynn Ziraldo Advocacy Award

Alison Morse

Alison Morse

Alison Morse is currently a Provincial Coordinator with Easter Seals Ontario and is a parent of an adult with a disability; Alison is also well-known as a passionate advocate for students with disabilities and special needs. Alison challenges her colleagues on committees to understand that those with disabilities have a limited voice.

Alison’s commitment to walking the talk regarding accessibility issues and influencing others about doing the right things is working to remove barriers. Over the years Alison has chaired and participated on provincial and local level committees, served as a voluntary board member for various community organizations, represented the needs and issues for children with disabilities on school boards, mentored parents, developed position papers and submissions to government consultations, written and published a variety of Special Education information resources, and delivered countless workshops and presentations. In addition, Alison was a member of the Minister’s Advisory Council as the representative for Physical Disabilities. Alison helps families who are navigating the education system and she works tirelessly to provide families with resources, tools and supports so they feel informed as they advocate for their children.

Alison is a champion for more inclusive education policies, vital educational programming and supports. Her leadership, sound advice, and ability to help a diverse committee reach consensus, greatly influences all those who worked with her. Alison Morse truly embodies Lynn Ziraldo’s spirit and qualities and she is most deserving of the Lynn Ziraldo Advocacy Award.


The President’s Award to a Partner in Education

Dr. Steven Reid

Dr. Steven Reid

Throughout his exceptional career, Dr. Steven Reid has championed the awareness and the potential of all students with exceptionalities. As the Associate Director of the York Region District School Board, Dr. Reid continued his advocacy and promotion of student potential through his active participation on the Special Education Advisory Committee. He was strategic in keeping the board running through the pandemic, always keeping the needs of students with exceptionalities at the forefront of decision making and support provided. Dr. Reid exemplifies strategic leadership at a system level for all students but particularly for students with special education needs/exceptionalities; he has written articles and presented on various topics that support all students and educators. Additionally, Dr. Reid worked to modernize EQAO and provided strategic direction at the provincial level as Director at the Ministry of Education; his strategic thinking and understanding of knowledge mobilization broaden the scope of implementation to all students and educators. Dr. Reid’s exceptional skills made a tremendous difference for students and staff at YRDSB and will continue to do so at OISE/UT and at Queen’s University. We are grateful to Dr. Reid and the impact he has had, and will continue to have, on students, school systems, and education.


Business, Agency and Community Award (Chapter 543)

Vince's Market Newmarket

Vince’s Market - Newmarket

Giancarlo and the Vince’s Market team is a valuable community minded partner to students with exceptionalities in the York Catholic District School Board. This incredible business worked tirelessly with school staff to set up mini marts in a few high schools. In order to be successful, students require exposure and rehearsal through authentic tasks. Vince’s Market donated aprons, hats, debit machines, shelving and various foods as well as coffee and tea to one secondary school so that students could run a coffee cart business. All these donations empowered students to complete a variety of activities that related to working in a grocery store environment. In addition, Giancarlo met with staff to assist with the training modules. As a result, students are better prepared for work experience. Vince’s Market recognizes the importance of this type of work experience. Vince’s Market is an incredible organization and very deserving of the award.


Paraprofessional of the Year Award (Chapter 543)

Jennifer Nedanovski

Jennifer Nedanovski

Jennifer currently works as a Child and Youth Worker at Barbara Reid Public School in the York Region District School Board, where she supports students in the Kindergarten/Primary Autism Community Class and works as an integral part of the classroom team with an Educational Assistant and the teacher. Together they create a dynamic team that works closely to develop programming, both academically and socially, to meet the vastly different needs of the most vulnerable students. Jennifer’s expertise and knowledge in behavior management and student engagement have been essential in developing and implementing meaningful and authentic programming for students; she has worked tirelessly to support students’ social-emotional and academic needs during this time.  Jennifer’s knowledge of Applied Behavior Analysis and behavior management has been essential to the support she has provided students; she has worked over the years to expand and deepen her knowledge of practices that would be of benefit in the classroom context. Through her continued professional development, Jennifer has been able to share her learning with the classroom teachers, which has worked to support the varied behavioral needs of students. Jennifer’s contributions to this classroom and the overall school community have been superlative and will have lasting impacts on all students within the school.


Teacher of the Year Award (Chapter 391)

Jonathan Luna

Jonathan Luna

Jonathan Luna is a teacher extraordinaire and an outstanding advocate for all students, including those with special needs and their families, supporting their full participation in the school environment. In fact, students’ needs are always at the heart of Jonathan’s actions; students and their families have benefitted from Jonathan’s thoughtfulness, guidance and compassion. Jonathan is a Principal’s dream, with the ability to coordinate and collaborate with multi-disciplinary teams, organizing conferencing and implementing therapy goals into the school day in a functional way. A highly effective communicator, Jonathan is reflective, responds to issues with compassion and sensitivity and addresses challenges with confidence and clarity. Jonathan truly is an exemplary educator who has most deservedly earned the respect of his students, parents, administrators and colleagues. Jonathan has had experience teaching in a variety of elementary grades in the Peel District School Board: at the time of the nomination Jonathan was working as an In School Support Teacher at Dunrankin Public School in Malton and the end of August, Jonathan became a Special Education Resource Teacher, which allows him to service many schools in Peel. Jonathan exemplifies the belief that the mark of one's commitment to a community of learners is found in how one treats its most vulnerable students - and in Jonathan's case, there is a deep and sincere commitment to serve so that every child may find success.


Teacher of the Year Award (Chapter 543)

Matthew Watts

Matthew Watts

As a teacher in an Elementary Complex Needs Community Class in York Region District School Board, Matthew Watts is someone who provides continuous wrap-around support for all of the students, as well as the families, he serves. Matthew’s exceptional understanding of the whole child is evident during every interaction he has with his students, lifting them up, celebrating both the small and the big steps they take together, based on common goals around academics, but also spirit, connection, and belonging. Matthew’s involvement in his students lives doesn’t start or end at the bell, but rather at the onset of the transition into his classroom, which is always based on compassion, student voice, and praise. Matthew’s colleagues and administration value his special education background and experiences, as well as his flexibility, professionalism, and desire to dismantle barriers for all children. Matthew’s vision for inclusion stretches beyond his own classroom walls, into the whole school setting; he seeks to make sure all staff and students feel connected to their environment, building and fostering positive relationships for students and staff. Matthew is a consummate professional who deserves to be celebrated for the work he does to support students and families.


Teacher of the Year Award (Chapter 56)

Douglas White

Kenn Kloby Award Recipient

Douglas White

Douglas is a teacher and assistant curriculum leader at Central Etobicoke High School with the Toronto District School Board. As a professionally trained chef, Douglas teaches cooking and baking courses to students with both developmental and mild intellectual disabilities. Douglas has the ability to increase students’ life skills and independence in the kitchen; he makes every student feel special, allowing them to feel pride in a job well done. Focussing on students’ abilities, Douglas goes out of his way to ensure all students gain confidence while teaching them to be independent. As a school leader, Douglas works with his students to coordinate valuable school events such as, Easter egg hunts, school-wide breakfasts, and barbecues. Douglas cares about students and his presence in their lives as their teacher makes a positive difference for them and their families; Douglas has a passion for teaching and is truly making a difference.


Educational Leader of the Year Award (Chapter 56)

Donald Reid

Irene Mackowski Award Recipient

Donald Reid

Donald Reid has held several leadership positions over his career with the Toronto Catholic District School Board, as Head of Autism Programs and Services, as a Special Education Coordinator and presently as Principal of Education and Community Partnership Programs. In his current role, Donald works tirelessly to ensure that all programs are supported; his creativity and leadership skills support students, families, staff, and community agencies. Donald spends time in the classroom, learning first-hand of the challenges both students and their teachers face so that he can advocate for meaningful programming and increased support for the unique needs of exceptional students. Donald has been a leader to other principals and special education administrators and he has served at the provincial level with other Care and Treatment principals as a member of the executive, including a term as President. Described by a teacher, “When I think of Donald’s role within Special Education at the TCDSB, the image of a tree trunk, supporting all of its reaching boughs, branches and leaves, comes to mind. The trunk remains the strongest part of the tree, solidly rooted in faith and experience, strong through all weather and seasons”.


Educational Leader of the Year Award (Chapter 391)

Leslie Grant

Leslie Grant

Leslie Grant is a passionate, caring, educator who is currently Superintendent of Education for the Peel District School Board. Leslie is an outstanding advocate for equity and inclusion; her commitment to anti-black racism, anti-oppression and providing opportunities to support marginalized individuals is to be commended. Leslie’s commitment to meeting the Ministry Directives and providing equity education for all is impressive. Leslie models and teaches in her role as Superintendent of Education, guiding school principals as they embed anti-racist practices in their schools.  Special needs are always at the heart of Leslie’s actions; students and their families have benefitted from Leslie’s empathy, guidance, and compassion. Leslie collaborates with multi-disciplinary teams during meetings to ensure the needs of students and their families are being met. A highly effective communicator, Leslie is reflective, responds to issues with compassion and sensitivity and addresses challenges with confidence and clarity. Leslie is action-orientated and serves as a role model to her peers as she conveys professionalism, knowledge, and patience.  She has been an advocate for her students and parents, and an outstanding leader for staff and all colleagues.  The Peel District School Board is proud of Leslie’s leadership skills and all her accomplishments.  Leslie is an exceptional individual and leader and is certainly worthy of Educational Leader of the Year Award.


Educational Leader of the Year Award (Chapter 543)

Melinda Rapallo-Ferrara

Melinda Rapallo-Ferrara

Melinda Rapallo-Ferrara is currently a Literacy Consultant with the York Catholic District School Board. Melinda’s Superintendent referred to her as a teacher, consultant, author, and mentor; these words are reflective of Melinda’s innate nature - a seeker of knowledge, with her deep commitment to equity and inclusion within the areas of special education and literacy. Melinda firmly believes that her calling is to teach; her view of students is one that embodies holistic teaching, fostering a culture of student well-being that includes the cognitive, spiritual, and physical dimensions of student development. Throughout her career Melinda has demonstrated the ability to develop strong relationships with staff, students and parents as she supported the implementation of effective and accessible programs. Melinda’s leadership skills were recognized at the Ontario College of Teachers when she assumed the roles of a Program Officer, a YCDSB AQ Instructor, and Special Education Consultant, all of which nurtured her desire to advocate for the human rights of all learners, especially as it relates to literacy instruction. Melinda is certainly an outstanding leader in education.


Yes I Can! Parent Award (Chapter 543)

Monica Manjarrez

Monica Manjarrez

Monica Manjarrez’s love and devotion for her daughter, Eleana is apparent to all who know Eleana and her family; this mom has worked hard to ensure that her daughter develops to her full potential. Monica helps run Commons Coffee and Catering, a non-profit business which focuses on providing support and job opportunities for adults with different abilities.  Every weekend you can see Eleana hard at work with her peers at the Newmarket Farmers Market. Eleana also volunteers weekly at the Newmarket Food Pantry where she has a wide range of responsibilities, which she fulfills independently. Together, mom and daughter have raised funds for the pantry through her shop, “Eleana’s Bazaar”. Through their regular fundraising Monica and her daughter have diligently focused on giving back to the community. Through her dedication to helping her daughter thrive, Monica has created a successful business and helped foster her daughter’s skills in the kitchen. As a result, Eleana currently attends a Culinary Arts program at Humber College.


Yes I Can! Student Awards - Academics

Anthony Di Mambro

Anthony Di Mambro - Chapter 289

Anthony was a student at St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Elementary School when he was nominated for a Yes I Can Award in Academics. Anthony’s literacy and numeracy skills have increased in leaps and bounds.  He completes his tasks independently with the assistance of his work system, which includes his use of First - Then, and he communicates his learning using ProLoquo on his iPad. Anthony loves attending school.  He gets off the bus every day with a smile as he greets staff and students, ready to start his day.  Way to go, Anthony!



Yaqoub Saleem

Yaqoub Saleem - Chapter 543

Yaqoub was a student of Greensborough when he was nominated for a Yes I Can award in the area of Academics. Each day, he came to class with a positive attitude. He participated in all of our class discussions and often helped his peers with tasks they were struggling with. He loves to solve math problems and even when he isn’t sure if his answers are correct, he will still volunteer to write his answers on the board. He enjoys reading aloud and makes personal connections to his reading, oftentimes related to funny stories about his siblings! He welcomes a challenge and doesn’t shy away from trying new strategies and using technology to help with his learning. Great achievement, Yaqoub!




Yes I Can! Student Awards - Arts

Theepak Tharmarasa

Theepak Tharmarasa - Chapter 289

Theepak was a student at Lawfield Public School when he was nominated for a Yes I Can Award in Academics. He has grown significantly this past year and with this the independence to do more and share his personal story of having a diagnosis of autism. He created an amazing PowerPoint and video presentation which he shared with the school community. Way to go, Theepak!



Fadhil Gedi

Fadhil Gedi - Chapter 56/Ontario Pioneers Subdivision

Fadhil was a student at Silverthorn Community School when he was nominated for a Yes I Can Award in the Arts.  Fadhil has a positive attitude and is always encouraging others.  His bright outlook contributes to his amazing artistic talent. His ability to draw and use colour to represent his feelings is outstanding.  All those who appreciate his work, are drawn to the emotions it represents. His positive personality shines through in his artwork.  Way to go, Fadhil!




Max McDougall

Max McDougall - Chapter 56

Max was a student at St. Louis Catholic School when he was nominated for a Yes I Can Award in the Arts. Max is highly motivated by most art activities whether they involve drawing, painting, cut and paste collages or paper creations.  Max has a very unique style when it comes to his own drawing and colouring. He is attracted to bright, bold colours and when given the artistic freedom to create without using a model, it often results in a stunning masterpiece. At home and at school, the walls are covered in Max's prolific collection of artwork which are enjoyed by all who visit. Amazing, Max!




Angel Rajan

Angel Rajan - Chapter 56

Angel was a student at St. Nicholas Catholic School when she was nominated for a Yes I Can Award in the Arts.  Angel has an innate creativity and talent in makeup artistry and the culinary arts.  When Angel graduated from Senior Kindergarten, she confidently declared on stage at the SK Graduation Ceremony, "I want to be a makeup artist!"   She has shown dedication and passion to achieving this dream.  As well as developing her talent as a makeup artist, Angel watches YouTube videos to teach herself how to bake and cook. She follows recipes, step by step, and then her parents make a video of Angel instructing others how to bake. She is articulate and engaging in her videos. A truly inspiring achievement, Angel! 



Yes I Can! Student Awards - School & Community Activities

Anthony Morelli

Anthony Morelli - Chapter 289

Anthony was a student at St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School when he was nominated for a Yes I Can Award in School and Community Activities. He is known for his positive attitude and strong work ethic. Anthony continually shows respect for others through his actions and words. He teaches those around him about gratitude. His genuine positive attitude and impressive work ethic continues to impress those around him. Anthony is a hard worker, respectful, engaged, and kind. He is a role model for the student body and the community. His genuine, positive attitude lightens everyone’s day! Fantastic, Anthony!



Lorenzo Salciccioli

Lorenzo Salciccioli - Chapter 289/Ontario Pioneers Subdivision

Lorenzo was a student at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Elementary School when he was nominated for the Yes I Can Award in School and Community Activities. He demonstrated leadership in his school community by assisting staff members with their portable carts during French and Music class. He facilitates a warm and welcoming school environment by opening and closing doors for staff and students. Lorenzo generously offers help and support whenever he can, to whomever he can. Great contribution, Lorenzo!



Ragheeb Wahla

Ragheeb Wahla - Chapter 543

Ragheeb was a student at Discovery Public School when he was nominated for the Yes I Can Award for School and Community Activities. Ragheeb helped organize a fundraiser and promote awareness for Holland Bloorview’s Capes for Kids. He made announcements every day for one week and he created advertising posters to promote the school-wide Capes Day.  His positive attitude and incredible participation in his entire school day was commendable.  Ragheeb was able to get the entire school to wear capes for Cape Day and join him in embracing their inner heroes! Wonderful contribution, Ragheeb!




Yes I Can! Student Awards - Self-Advocacy


Mikkel Evans

Mikkel Evans - Chapter 56

Mikkel was a student at Roselands Junior Public School when he was nominated for a Yes I Can Award in Self-Advocacy.  Mikkel applies skills and strategies to help him effectively navigate tough situations.  He is dedicated to self-improvement and advocacy.  He has learned to believe in himself and those around him who care about him and desire to see him as the very bright, creative, kind, and wonderful boy that he is. Keep it up, Mikkel!



Kailyn Fleischauer

Kailyn Fleischauer - Chapter 56/Ontario DADD Subdivision

Kailyn was a student at Charles E. Webster Public School when she was nominated for the Yes I Can Award in Self-Advocacy.  She has grown exponentially during her elementary school experience.  She participates in all aspects of the school day and willingly engages in new activities.  She is independent, but when Kailyn needs assistance, she is not shy to ask the caring adults with whom she has built strong relationships. We look forward to Kailyn’s continued growth. Way to go, Kailyn!



Yes I Can! Student Awards - Technology

Daniel Lee

Daniel Lee - Chapter 543/Ontario Pioneers Subdivision

Daniel was a student at Stephen Lewis Secondary School when he was nominated for a Yes I Can Award in Technology. Daniel’s determination and ability to believe in himself with the assistance of the SEA technology gives him the tools to succeed academically. With the use of his SEA equipment, Daniel has gained independence, leadership, and excellent communication skills, along with valuable advocacy skills. He has become and continues to be an inspiration and leader to his peers, friends and teachers in the school community. Daniel was highlighted in the Spotlighting Excellence, Achievement and Community presentation at the June 2022 Special Education Advisory Committee meeting in the York Region District School Board. He was also the recipient of the 2022 Ignite Technology Graduation Grant. Amazing accomplishment, Daniel!



Lauren Quimado

Lauren Quimado - Chapter 543

Lauren was a student at St. Julia Billiart Catholic School when she was nominated for the Yes I Can Award in Technology. Lauren had to pivot when schools shifted to remote learning. She quickly learned how to access the curriculum independently on her laptop. She uses a refreshable braille display for math equations and is continuing to use a Perkins Brailler for writing pieces. Lauren is currently taking on the challenge of learning coding. She not only uses technology in her daily life but is looking for opportunities where she can mentor other students in the use of technology as well. Way to go, Lauren!

2021 Award Ceremony Photo Album


25th Anniversary of the Yes I Can Student Awards

This year in Ontario, it is the 25th Anniversary of the Yes I Can Student Awards. For 39 years, CEC has recognized children and youth with exceptionalities who have demonstrated their determination and achievements in multiple ways. The Yes I Can program has continued to grow and change since its inception in 1982, with more than 40,000 children and young adults recognized at the national, state, and/or provincial level. School personnel and Ontario CEC members can submit nominations for students who have demonstrated exemplary accomplishments in one of the following categories to their local chapters or to an Ontario CEC Subdivision. These nominations are then submitted to Ontario CEC for Provincial recognition.



  • Academics 
  • Arts 
  • Athletics 
  • School & Community Activities 
  • Self-advocacy 
  • Technology 
  • Transitions
25th Anniversary Yes I Can Student Award Recipients

Isabella Lucien (Region 3)

Betsy Stein (Region 3)

Arts Jay Mark Gool (Region 4)
School & Community Activities

Roman Cariati (Region 4)

Jerry Yin (Region 4)

Tristan Boivin (Region 3)


Jenova Lin (Region 4)

Ariana Magrics (Region 1)

Technology Alex Schison (Region 1)

Emma Roppoli (Region 3)

Hashim Tahir (Region 1)

Andrew Short (Region 3)


Recognition Awards

Celebrating 100 Years Young - Tribute to Mary Scott, Past President


Mary Scott

Mary Scott is a pioneer in Ontario in special education through her leadership in the education, in-servicing and professional development of teachers and administrators in the education of differently abled children and youth.  Mary received The Fred Bartlett Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education in Ontario. Ms. Scott devoted many years in her career to making a commitment to every child in the York Region school system in King Township and as an instructor on Ontario Ministry of Education special education courses and as an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Education, York University. In May, 2022 Mary will celebrate her 100th birthday.


The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) has been a big and important part of Mary Scott’s life and career.  She believes that it is important to work with others for the good of each child and help parents to understand the programs and services available to their children. Early in her career Mary became concerned about students who were challenged in a rural county setting and in her work she became very interested in remedial reading and support for students with learning difficulties.  Ms. Scott convinced many teachers and administrators to enroll in special education certification courses.  In her exemplary roles in her school system, she encouraged many teachers to move into special education programs and was a mentor to many educators over the years.


Ms. Scott is a life-long learner who continued to study throughout her career.  She has devoted many years in support of the work of the CEC locally and provincially. She has attended a number of provincial, national and International conferences over the years and attended the World Council of CEC in Stirling, Scotland.  She began her work in CEC as Secretary of York Region Chapter 543 and served as the Secretary of the Ontario Council for Administrators of Special Education.  Mary became a member of the leadership group of the Ontario Federation of The Council for Exceptional Children and served as the Provincial President in 1984 after being encouraged to do so by Marion McLeod, an Ontario CEC leader.  The theme of the provincial CEC conference during Mary’s leadership was “Commitment To Every Child”.  The Keynote Speaker was Dr. Bette Stephenson, Ontario Minister of Education and Colleges and Universities.


Melinda Gates said that a woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult.


Mary would tell you that she was never shy inside but she was challenged to speak in front of a group.  But she found strength to speak out early in her career and continued to be a significant voice on behalf of students who had difficulty adjusting to the constant changes in education and teaching.  Being of Scottish heritage and born in Indiana, Mary was resolved to make a difference as an educator.  Through increasing her knowledge base and a resourceful approach, having empathy, being honest in dealing with others and having fun in the process Mary became a successful networker with school board officials and trustees.  Mary valued a sense of humour in getting the job done. She provided information to people upon request. Later in her career, Mary became the Coordinator of the Jefferson Teacher Centre in York Region.  Teachers found assistance there and speakers provided in-service at that resource centre.


Mary Scott began teaching in 1941, taking some leave time for family commitments. She retired from education in 1985, but in true Mary fashion, she continued to be active in her community.  She has received an honour from King Township as Citizen of the Year for her involvement in the Laskay Womens’ Institute.  Mary has written ten plays to tell the story of Laskay, a small village in York Region which involved students. She has raised funds for the work of the Womens’ Institute.


Julia Child, American Chef, Author and Television Personality has advised to find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.


Early in life, Mary Scott found her passion – COMMITMENT TO EVERY CHILD.  Mary’s career has been exemplary in this cause.  All of CEC applauds Mary Scott for her leadership and pays tribute to her on this special occasion.


Adult Award Recipients 2021
Lynn Ziraldo Advocacy Award

Dr. Kathy Short

Life-time Achievement Award Amy Shannon
Educational Leader of the Year

Dr. Shawn Moynihan (Region 2)

Vicky Branco (Region 3)

Jodi Sepkowski (Region 4)

Teacher of the Year

Dina Mastrofrancesco (Region 3)

Suzanne Hébert-Lalonde (Region 2)

Kristie Rusan (Region 1)

Anita Boyd-Diamond (Region 4)

Paraprofessional of the Year

Michael Masih (Region 4)

Andrea Link (Region 1)

President’s Award to a CEC Member

Josie Fragnelli (Region 4)

Yes I Can Parent Award Nicky Azzarelli
President’s Award to a Partner in Education Dr. Maria Kokai
Business, Agency, and Community Award

fraktals Handmade Belgian Chocolate

Clara Peel, Supervisor

CEC Chapter Member of the Year Award

Moira Sinclair

Ross Caradonna


2019 Award Ceremony Photo Album


Lynn Ziraldo Advocacy Award


Dr. Arlette Lefebvre

Dr. Arlette Lefebvre is an advocate, a leader and a visionary who has spent her entire career dedicated to the treatment of children with special needs. She is a child psychiatrist on staff at The Hospital for Sick Children and Bloorview Kids Rehab. Within SickKids, she consults to the Paediatric Academic Multi-organ Transplant Team, the Division of Rheumatology and she is the co-lead for the Planning My Trip to the Hospital Program, which helps pediatric patients with special needs get through difficult medical procedures.Affectionately known to her patients as "Dr. Froggie," she was the founding president of AbilityOnline, the first online network for paediatric patients, which she created in 1992. Dr. Lefebvre has been active in a long list of volunteer organizations and support networks over the years. These include the Executive of the Board of the Media Awareness Network of Canada, the board of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Canada, and the Special Education Advisory Council to the Ontario Minister of Education. Some of her awards include: Women on the Move, Women Who Make a Difference, the Easter Seal Gold Merit Award, the Variety Club Diamond Award, induction into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame, the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada. Dr. Lefebvre is a caring and compassionate physician who infuses a sense of hope and courage in her patients, their families and her colleagues. She is greatly deserving of the Lynn Ziraldo Advocacy Award.


The President’s Award to a Partner in Education


Frances Bagley

Frances has always demonstrated dedication and commitment to the support and advancement of quality education for all students. During 35 years with the York Catholic District School Board she was a tireless advocate for students with disabilities in her role as educational assistant, teacher, administrator, superintendent of education and associate director: strategic leadership. It was Frances’ mission to eliminate all barriers for students accessing special education.  She was instrumental in ensuring that the Board's Multi-year Accessibility Plan was developed and implemented.  She also championed the Student Disability Accommodation Plan, which ensures that students with medical and physical conditions receive the necessary accommodations. Frances Bagley is a deserving candidate for this award; her outstanding career in education has always been influenced by her compassion, care and support of students with special learning needs.


Business, Agency and Community Award


Pete Mikosis - North 49 Books

As a co-owner of North 49 Books in Toronto, Pete Mikosis a staunch and outspoken advocate for employment for people with disabilities. Three years ago he reached out to offer year-roundexperiential work opportunities for students with special needs. Students from developmental disability programs in local secondary schools are provided with opportunities to experience all the jobs and tasks that a regular employee at North 49 Books would perform, including unpacking new purchases, shelving new books, filling shipping orders, operating a pump truck and breaking down empty cartons. Pete adjusts tasks to meet every student’s needs, works with students directly and tailors situations for each student. Pete believes in each student’s ability to contribute in a meaningful way to the workplace regardless of the obstacles they may face.  As a speaker at the Special 2018 Education Forum, he strongly urged others to become involved and directly invited other employers to dialogue about ways to improve post-21 employment for people with disabilities. Pete demonstrates limitless kindness, patience, care and enthusiasm with students andsays that working with people with special needs is the best part of his day! Through his efforts Pete has provided for the enhancement, awareness and employment of individuals with exceptionalities thus promoting and supporting their full participation within the community.


Paraprofessional of the Year Award (Region 1)


Mary Jo Valerio

Mary Jo is a dedicated professional who truly exemplifies the motto of the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board: “Each Belong”.  As an Educational Assistant with this district for more than 30 years she has worked in schools with students with various exceptionalities and has served on many central office teams.  As well as providing training for staff on professional activity days, Mary Jo has been involved with many teams and initiatives, including the ASET committee for the assistive technology conference and a physical activity day for high school students with exceptionalities. She is recognized for her skill and dedication to support students through challenging transitions with dignity and respect. Her commitment to students with special education needs has been her lifelong passion.  Mary Jo is a most deserving candidate for the President’s Award to a Paraprofessional in Region 1.


Paraprofessional of the Year Award (Region 4)


Juliana Puche

Juliana is always thinking of the students first and helps them to be successful.  As an Educational Assistant, she supports the transition of students with special needs into the Kindergarten classroom through Early Intervention Services. She has a keen interest in working with children, understands the uniqueness of every child and is patient, understanding and sensitive to their needs. She takes the initiative to prepare student resources such as sensory centres, visual schedules, a parent-home communication tool and token boards. Due to her efforts, students with high needs have been fully integrated in the FDK program.  As an individual who exudes a positive attitude, works collaboratively with colleagues and supports school-wide activities outside of the classroom, Juliana is truly deserving of the President’s Award to a Paraprofessional in Region 4.


Teacher of the Year Award (Region 2)


Christine Weresch

Christine contributes to the welfare of exceptional children with compassion, integrity and professionalism.  In her role as Life Skills teacher at Sam Sherratt P. S. in the Halton District School Board, she fundraised to establish a sensory room in her classroom. She promoted awareness throughout the school community about the need for sensory breaks and created a sensory walk in the front hallway of the school. As a leader and strong advocate in the school, Christine fostered awareness and understanding about students with special needs among her colleagues. She built connections within the parent community and worked closely with many agencies and professionals to ensure that students received what they needed to be successful.  She supported the transition of students to secondary school through close communication with parents and by providing multiple meetings and visits.  Christine watched her students participate in extra-curricular activities outside of school.  She facilitated the participation of her students in the Special Olympics torch run, multi-sport day and musical performances. Christine is a highly qualified, exemplary professional who is very deserving of the Teacher of the Year Award for Region 2.


Teacher of the Year Award (Region 3)


Tony Tamburro

Tony Tamburro is an outstanding educator at Charles E. Webster Public School. As the Methods and Resource Teacher, he coordinates team meetings, IPRCs and SEA claims and has many leadership roles within the school. He ensures that special education needs are at the forefront of the planning and programming at the school. Tony connects with students to ensure that each and every one of them know their strengths and the importance of the contributions that they make to the school community and the world.  He supports their well-being and academics through engaging and innovative programming, and is able to infuse technology and fun into their learning.  He was instrumental in transitioning the school from a withdrawal to an inclusive model, where students receive support in class.  Tony has contributed to building a climate of empathy, where students with special education needs are treated with kindness and caring in the greater school context and parents and staff work together to celebrate student success. His natural ability to build strong and trusting relationships with the families at C.E. Webster has resulted in a significant reduction in stigmas around students receiving special education support. Tony certainly deserves the Teacher of the Year Award, truly making a difference within the school and community.


Teacher of the Year Award (Region 4)

Kenn Kloby Award Recipient 


Timothy McCammon

Timothy is an educator who champions all students and works tirelessly to advocate for student rights and opportunity. His inclusionary practice is rooted in a respect for students, a true appreciation of effort and the belief that each student is a treasure.  He is a Special Education Resource Teacher with the ASD Community Class at Lake Wilcox Public School in the York Region District School Board, whose leadership is renowned throughout the school district. He welcomes teachers, administrators, interdisciplinary teams and support staff into his classroom to observe and discuss individualized explicit teaching and how to build a program for students with ASD. His involvement in the After School Social Skills Program, his work in OFIP and the inclusion of his students in a band that performs at various events throughout YRDSB, reflects Tim's commitment to increase opportunities for students with ASD.  For Tim, no student is out of reach. He is an educator who makes a difference, not only in the classroom, his school and his board, but in the lives of students with ASD and their families. Timothy is very deserving of the Teacher of the Year Award in Region 4.


Educational Leader of the Year Award (Region 1)


Dianne Parr

Dianne Parr is highly respected as a leader in special education in the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board and throughout Ontario. As manager of Speech and Language Services in the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board for over 20 years Dianne has been instrumental in planning and implementing staff development, including multidisciplinary teams for augmentative and assistive technology and autism.  Dianne has been responsible for the implementation of numerous pre-school programs, as well as a pre-school entry to school process which supports inclusion of young children with special education needs.  Dianne has served in many roles as a long time member of the executive of Chapter 289 Council for Exceptional Children.  A welcoming, patient and thorough educator, she knows the students and families with whom she works.  Dianne is an exemplary educational leader who is truly deserving of the Educational Leader of the Year Award.


Educational Leader of the Year Award (Region 3)

Irene Mackowski Award Recipient 


Lillian Ugrin

Lillian is an outstanding principal and a consummate professional who shows care and concern for all students.  As principal of St. Leo Catholic School in the Toronto Catholic District School Board, she worked diligently to enhance the success and well-being of students with special learning needs.  Lillian was an educator for four decades, with half of this time spent as a school administrator. Throughout her career she advocated for the inclusion of students with special needs.  She exceled in serving high needs students and their families. Her expert communication skills provided for success when dealing with sensitive and complex situations. Lillian shared her expertise and demonstrated leadership to colleagues and board staff.  In the words of a parent of a child with special needs at St. Leo, she exuded “compassion, understanding and empathy” when working with students to achieve success and inclusion. Lillian is very deserving of the honour of Educational Leader of the Year in Region 3.


Educational Leader of the Year Award (Region 4)


Angie Cabraja

Angie is a strong advocate and powerful voice for students with Autism. During the past 18 years with the York Catholic District School Board, Angie has focused on helping students with Autism in their elementary, secondary and postsecondary studies.  She has been an ASD teacher and consultant and is currently the ASD Coordinator.  Through excellent working partnerships with Autism Ontario and Kerry’s Place, Angie created transition programs for students in grade 7 and 8 and developed a summer program. Other initiatives include a Social Skills Programme for intermediate students and the introduction of a programme for high school students in Vaughan. Her collaboration with post secondary institutions has resulted in the implementation of pathways plans for students to successfully transition to college and university. Angie Cabraja’s dedication, passion and commitment make her a deserving recipient of the Ontario CEC Educational Leader Award.


Yes I Can! Parent Award (Region 3)

Hayden Desser and Christie Greyerbiehl

Hayden Desser and Christie Greyerbiehl

Hayden Desser and Christie Greyerbiehl, along with Beverley Street School administrators and fellow parents, created the Annual Dream Serenade, as a way to advocate for their school and other congregated schools, and to provide respite for families of children with special needs. The Yes I Can Parent Award recognizes the commitment, advocacy and passion of these two individuals. Dream Serenade is an annual event to raise funds for Toronto’s Beverley Street School and services for children with developmental and or physical disabilities and their caregivers. Christie and Hayden have worked tirelessly for the past 6 years planning, promoting, outreaching and bringing people together to support this wonderful event. The Dream Serenade features unique live performances and collaborations from local and international artists who generously donate their talents to this worthy cause. The reach of these show proceeds has now grown to benefit other like-minded schools in the city, support a year-round Family Relief Respite Fund and establish a Summer Bursary Fund to assist eligible Toronto-area families in accessing summer programming.  The Dream Serenade has successfully increased awareness and influenced attitudes of exceptional children and youth and supported programming and services to children and their families. Christie and Hayden are celebrated as the recipients of the Yes I Can! Parent Award for Region 3.


Yes I Can! Parent Award (Region 4)


Sarah Saif

Sarah is an advocate for integrating students with special needs with their peers and supports this process for her son and other students in his class. She is a valuable member of the Mount Joy P.S. community in the York Region District School Board, where her son, Benjamin, attends a Community Class. As an active member of the school council, she advocates for students with exceptionalities. She organizes a World Down Syndrome Day assembly, where she presents information about Down Syndrome, while building awareness and fostering inclusion of all individuals with exceptionalities. Sarah also volunteers for other events, such as the Students of Differing Abilities Athletic and Activities Meet. Thank you Sarah for being an advocate of all children with exceptionalities and allowing your passion for Down Syndrome to educate and inspire others!


Yes I Can! Student Awards - Academics


Gillian Lazaridis - Toronto District School Board

Gillian has made significant gains in her ability to participate in school life. She uses the strategy of modeling and support from her classmates to make transitions throughout the day, from one activity or location to another and from school to home.  She follows two-step directions and tasks are completed using Proloquo on her iPad, the interactive whiteboard and Task Galore boxes. Gillian also participates in circle time, lunch, recess and assemblies.  She successfully engages with learning sign language for songs. These achievements provide Gillian with a sense of accomplishment, independence and integrity. Congratulations, Gillian, on demonstrating the skills required for a Yes I Can – Transition Award.





Sarah Strawbridge - Kawartha Pineridge District School Board

Sarah’s language and literacy skills have skyrocketed in the past few years!  She reads all the time, enjoying everything from mysteries to satires. She demonstrates great perseverance and work ethic. Despite the challenge of a hearing impairment, Sarah’s growth and dedication towards academic progress, especially in the area of reading, is an inspiration to her classmates and teachers. Congratulations, Sarah, on a well-deserved Yes I Can – Academics Award.




Yes I Can! Student Awards - Arts


Daniel Martin - Hamilton Wentworth District School Board

Daniel’s openness and enthusiasm for visual arts is exceptional.  He is a patient artist who experiments with new art styles and craft activities. His many interesting art projects are displayed in the class and throughout the school.  Daniel is proud of his art work and willingly shares his creations with others. He consistently impresses both staff and students with his wonderful, creative artistic abilities.  Daniel is obviously a great choice as a recipient of the Yes I Can – Arts award.





Jiya Singh - Peel District School Board

Jiya truly has a love for the performance arts.  In her role as the lead character in a school performance of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Jiya showed great skill and talent. Her commitment, enthusiasm and confidence inspired her classmates to approach their own performances with professionalism and resulted in her becoming a mentor to her peers.   Jiya also participated in mainstream visual arts and dance classes with skill and determination during her first year in high school.  Jiya’s ability and motivation in the arts has resulted in her Yes I Can – Arts Award.





Winston Albanum - Toronto District School Board

Music and movement are a dynamic strength for Winston and one way that he willingly demonstrates his skills and talents.  Through practice singing songs he has an impressive vocabulary in American Sign Language.  His signing performance of an alphabet rap at the school talent show blew away the audience! Winston’s performance in the drum circle during African American Heritage Month on the djembe and tubano drum was very entertaining. His dance moves motivate and engage his classmates and others in the school community. Winston is very deserving of the Yes I Can – Arts Award




Yes I Can! Student Awards - School & Community Activities


Oscar Gao - York Region District School Board

Hard work has led to Colton’s success with academic and life skills. He takes ownership of his learning and shows strong resolve to self-regulate his actions. His use of assistive technology has improved his ability to communicate his ideas to others. As an important member of his class he has learned to self-advocate during challenging situations.  The Yes I Can – Self-advocacy Award is well-deserved.




Yes I Can! Student Awards - Self-Advocacy



Colton Lupton-Secord - Hamilton Wentworth District School Board

Outstanding participation within the school and community has led Oscar to be a recipient of this Yes I Can Award. Oscar has found many ways to participate in school and community life. He delivers newspapers to raise funds to assist his family with home repairs. As a Bus Looper, Library Helper, Playground Leader and a member of the Tech Team, Oscar makes a great contribution to the school community. He also eagerly demonstrates his piano skills at the school talent show and tries out for sports teams. A self-created French, English and Mandarin translation chart was shared with his classmates as a way of assisting others. Oscar is congratulated for his significant growth in the area of school and community activities.  





Denille Dime - Toronto Catholic District School Board

Denille’s courage, persistence and determination result in many successes with academic and extra-curricular activities.  She advocates to have her needs met and to fully participate in all aspects of school life.  As a student with a hearing impairment, she consistently requests accommodations and uses them in appropriate ways.  Denille effectively uses hearing aids and touch screen hearing assistance technology throughout the school day.  She even uses this technology during extra-curricular activities, such as soccer, ukulele club and skating!  She regularly displays the three step self-advocacy approach of “try by myself, ask a friend or ask a teacher”.  Denille is truly an inspiration to everyone around her.





Jericho Rodrigues - York Region District School Board

Jericho is a truly inspiring student who radiates positivity, advocates for himself and strives to be the best he can be every day. His many physical challenges do not hold him back.  Whether doing a three-legged race, break-dancing or learning a new activity in physical education class, Jericho rises to the occasion and finds a way to participate, always with a smile on his face. He does his best to remain independent and self-sufficient, while he also asks for support when needed.  Always smiling, laughing and making jokes, Jericho is a constant ray of sunshine that has an amazing impact on his teachers, family and friends every day. Jericho’s demonstration of self-advocacy is an inspiration to all who know him.  Congratulations, Jericho!





Megan Kumamoto - York Catholic District School Board

Megan is a young woman who demonstrates many self-advocacy skills as she transitions to her life after secondary school. She assumes practical responsibility for herself and ensures that others know when she needs support.  As well as advocating for herself she advocates for her peers and has been a positive role model through helping others in her Functional Life Skills class. The goal of becoming a day care support worker inspires her as she transitions to the next stage of her life and continues to advocate for herself.  Megan is truly deserving of the Yes I Can – Self-Advocacy Award.





Lochlan Gillespie - Viamonde School Board

Lochlan is a student in the Via Monde French school board in Oakville, where he eagerly shows enthusiasm for all his school activities. He has displayed amazing self-advocacy skills at school. His academic studies benefit from his application of initiative and self-discipline.  Lochlan uses meditation skills on a daily basis to further develop his self-regulation. He has assisted in presentations during important events, meetings, and celebrations at school. Due to all his hard work, he was selected to participate in the final level of a dictation competition at the Via Monde school board. Congratulations, Lochlan!




Yes I Can! Student Awards - Technology


Neil Faria - Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board

Neil’s outstanding growth with technology skills has greatly increased his independence and his ability to communicate with others. He uses his personal iPad to express his feelings, interact with his peers and teachers and demonstrate his learning. His proficient use of Proloquo2go allows him to express his choice of activities, his love of pop music and his enjoyment of favourite books. Neil’s use of assistive and adaptive technology devices and equipment makes him a great choice for a Yes I Can – Technology Award!




Yes I Can! Student Awards - Transition


Zainab Sikander - Peel District School Board 

The positive skills and traits that Zainab demonstrates have prepared her well for life after high school. She is a mentor to her peers, providing encouragement to socialize with other students at school, including participation in the Best Buddies program. She consistently supports her classmates by providing reminders about field trips, special activities and class work. Zainab continuously strives for greater independence and faces challenges with confidence, using these situations as an opportunity to advocate for her and others.  Zainab ‘s Yes I Can – Transition Award is well deserved!



Lucas Stager - Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board

As a senior student in his final year of high school, Lucas has made an outstanding transition to the work environment. He is an exceptional team member of the staff at the store at which he works, eagerly following routines and completing all tasks.  He is always ready to lend a hand to his coworkers.  Lucas is an eager participant with all activities in his tech classes, which provide him with work skills.  He successfully completes oil changes, tire changes, equipment assembly and house construction.  He models safety routines in the workshop and is well accepted by his peers in the workplace and workshop.  Lucas is an exemplary student who has mastered skills which will assist him with the transition to work life.  Congratulations, Lucas!





Olin Sheikh - Toronto District School Board

Olin is becoming a strong and independent young man. He has made a variety of gains furthering his vocational skills. His work at a classroom run café has assisted him to develop specific skills, such as selling snacks and beverages, taking drinks and food orders, handling money and providing change as well as setting and cleaning up the café.  In the classroom, he is taking stock inventory, compiling grocery lists and assisting with grocery shopping. Olin has made great strides in his willingness to work. As a student who is mastering activities that lead to successful experiences in the areas of work and vocational training, Olin is a wonderful choice for a recipient of a Yes I Can -  Transition Award.





Matthew Prizzon - Toronto District School Board

Matthew has put forth significant effort to master activities that lead to successful experiences with independent living.  He demonstrates patience when interacting with his classmates and teachers.  In his Social Skills class he has shown growth with his inter-personal as well as intra-personal skills. Matthew responds well to feedback and works well independently.  He always ensures he completes his classroom work to the best of his ability.  Matthew is clearly a deserving recipient of the Yes I Can – Transition Award.



2018 Award Ceremony Photo Album


2018 Ontario CEC Awards Recipients

Adult Awards Recipient Chapter
Lynn Ziraldo Advocacy Award Tracy Odell  
Presidents Award to a CEC Member Maria Trotta Chapter 289
Teacher of the Year by Region Gabriele S. Cooney  Chapter 56
Teacher of the Year by Region Anna Boyle Chapter 289
Teacher of the Year by Region Stacey Falconer Chapter 391
Teacher of the Year by Region Derek Bunn Chapter 543
Educational Leader of the Year by Region Alana Grossman Chapter 56
Educational Leader of the Year by Region Karen Moyer Chapter 289
Educational Leader of the Year by Region Shelley Hewitt  Chapter 543
Paraprofessional of the Year Award by Region Debbie Connon Chapter 289
Paraprofessional of the Year Award by Region Tamara Perry Chapter 391
Paraprofessional of the Year Award by Region Jennifer Rajkumar Chapter 543
Subdivision or Chapter Member of the Year Dianne Parr Chapter 289
Presidents Award to a Partner in Education Richard Miraglia Chapter 543
Business, Agency and Community Award St Michael’s Anglican Church Chapter 289
Postsecondary Adult Student Award Sheri Mallabar  
Yes I Can Parent Award Karen Prizzon Chapter 56
Yes I Can Parent Award Pauline Leung Chapter 543
Kenn Kloby Award Derek Bunn Chapter 543
Irene MacKowski Award Alana Grossman Chapter 56



Yes I Can Awards Recipient Chapter
Academics Maria Bangash Chapter 543

Mariana Andre


Grey Desser

Chapter 391


Chapter 56


Mark Masamvu


Lucas Robins


Mark Wu

Chapter 56 Ontario Division of Autism and Developmental Disability


Chapter 391


Chapter 543

School & Community Activities

Joseph Del Re


Sarah Jacobs


Winston Nguyen

Chapter 543


Chapter 289


Chapter 56


Esrom Amaniel


Diego Rodriguez


Josie Vitelli

Chapter 56  Ontario Division of Learning Disabilities


Chapter 56


Chapter 543


Christian Alocada


Amrita Boodhram


Jakob May

Chapter 56


Chapter 56 Ontario Division of Autism and Developmental Disability


Chapter 289


Sebastian Carrara


William Martone


TechDudes  - Halton District School Board
William Babineau
Katherine Chadwick
Lily Dick
Andrew Donnelly
Leyton Dykstra
Jack Hillier
Mohammed Sheraz
James Waters

Chapter 289


Chapter 56 Ontario Division of Learning Disabilities


Chapter 391


Last Updated:  12 January, 2024

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