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Past Award Recipients

2020/21 Award Recipients

25th Anniversary 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
Isabella Lucien

Isabella Lucien (Region 3)

Isabella was a student in grade 4 at Saint Ursula School in the Toronto Catholic District School Board when she was nominated for the Yes I Can Academics Award.  She showed a keen interest in the subject of science and worked hard to develop skills in this subject area. Isabella worked well with her classmates to explore new ideas. She was particularly interested in the topics of astronomy, botany, animals, volcanoes and sound. Isabella demonstrated different forms of hearing assistance technology during a science unit on sound. She extended her scientific inquiry methods to learn about her own hearing aids and cochlear implant. She also conducted experiments with test tubes and while baking. Isabella’s can-do attitude, her readiness to take on any challenge and her ability to ask questions about how the world works supported her achievement towards this academic award.


Betsy Stein

Betsy Stein (Region 3)

Betsy Stein was nominated for the Yes I Can Academics Award while attending Forest Hill Collegiate Institute in the Toronto District School Board. She obtained a locally-developed Grade 9 Mathematics credit with the support of her classroom teacher and her Special Needs Assistant. Betsy showed great determination as she persevered to complete this course while taking it for a third time. Throughout the semester she had a positive attitude towards the subject of mathematics. She was a respected and respectful member of the class, consistently completed homework and successfully wrote the final culminating evaluation with her classmates.  Betsy also demonstrated self-advocacy and communication skills by requesting work related to preferred topics and skills.

Jay Mark Gool (Region 4)

Jay Mark Gool was a student at Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy in the York Catholic District School Board when he was nominated for a Yes I Can Arts Award. Jay Mark demonstrated precision and creative abilities in the Arts, especially in his drawing and colouring. He looked forward to his Visual Arts classes as a means for him to share his thoughts and feelings through his work. Jay Mark showed great effort with attention to detail while drawing for personal enjoyment and for his course assignments. He was always very excited and proud to display and share his work with his classmates and teachers. Jay Mark continues to refine his skills in the Arts.

Roman Cariati

Roman Cariati (Region 4)

Roman was a student at Pope Francis School in the York Catholic District School Board when he was nominated for the Yes I Can School and Community Activities Award. He worked on a school committee that supported community work, such as the Thanksgiving Food Drive for the Vaughan Food Bank and the “Adopt a Family” initiative, which provides boxed goods to families in need. During his service to this committee Roman made school-wide announcements, packed boxes and created posters for popcorn sales.  In the community he attended Little Treasures Learning Centre, where he engaged in peer mentoring, helping other children with their homework or playing a game.  Through all of these activities Roman demonstrated a sense of social responsibility, connected with other students and developed friends.


Jerry Yin

Jerry Yin (Region 4)

Jerry Yin was a student at Richmond Hill High School in the York Region District School Board when he was nominated for the Yes I Can School and Community Activities Award. He was an enthusiastic volunteer at many school and community events, including Winterfest, where he assisted with ticket collection and the kids' craft station. He volunteered his time at the Mackenzie Health Annual Run for the Cure and was also a regular helper at many of the community events at Richmond Hill Presbyterian Church. Jerry often assisted the custodial team at school and contributed to various events such as Grade 8 Take Your Kids to School Day, Parents Night and Grade 9 Day. He showed enthusiasm with learning new tasks and always took the initiative to become involved. Jerry was a great role model for students and successfully spread his humour and positive spirit in and around the school.


Tristan Boivin

Tristan Boivin (Region 3)

Tristan was a grade 8 student at Viamonde Ècole Secondaire Toronto Ouest when he was nominated for the Yes I Can School and Community Activities Award. Tristan served for two years in the elected position of cohort representative. In this role he attended school council meetings and contributed to activities which support positive school culture. He demonstrated development with his leadership and communication skills. At a French-Language community event Tristan was responsible to welcome several provincial representatives.

Jenova Lin

Jenova Lin (Region 4)

Jenova Lin was a student at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Public School in the York Region District School Board when she was nominated for the Yes I Can Self Advocacy Award. She is a student with a lot of courage and determination. Jenova not only took pride in advocating for herself, but she understood that when she shared her voice, it benefited everyone around her. Despite the diagnosis of Tourette syndrome, Jenova did not let this slow her down. She knew that the best way to allow classmates and teachers to understand what she was going through was by sharing her story. Jenova took the responsibility to create a presentation about Tourette syndrome for her classmates, which included a simulation experience to help others gain a better understanding of what she experiences on a daily basis. She also took her advocacy to the community and shared her story with a broader audience. Jenova’s inspirational presentation demonstrated resilience as she advocated for herself and on behalf of other students.


Ariana Magrics

Ariana Magrics (Region 1)

Ariana Magrics was a student at Sherwood Secondary School in the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board, in the final year of a successful school career, when she was nominated for the Yes I Can Self-Advocacy Award. She is very deserving of this award, due to her demonstrated ability to manage her health care needs. Ariana took the responsibility to be knowledgeable about her appointments and procedures. She advocated for herself to make arrangements for the transportation, medication and personal support necessary to meet her needs. Ariana’s positive attitude and constant smile are appreciated by those around her and she is an inspiration to others.

Alex Schison

Alex Schison (Region 1)

Alex Schison received the nomination for the Yes I Can Technology Award when he was attending grade 8 at Gatestone Elementary School in the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board. He effectively used technical and academic skills to complete two major research assignments. He researched, studied and presented his findings on both topics to his teacher and classmates. Alex’s powerpoint presentation included a profile on Dwanyne “the Rock” Johnson. He also researched Russian culture and prepared a Russian dessert to share with the class. Alex is commended for his hard work, determination and application of technological skills.

Emma Roppoli

Emma Roppoli (Region 3)

Emma Roppoli was a grade 8 student at Marguerite d'Youville Catholic Elementary School in the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board when she was nominated for the Yes I Can Transition Award. During this time she demonstrated exceptional growth in her independent living skills. Emma was an active member of her classroom and school community. She assisted with the nutrition  program on a daily basis, delivering snacks to  classrooms and taking responsibility for cleaning the containers. Emma’s enjoyment of these tasks and her commitment to the work supported her transition to secondary school. 


Hashim Tahir

Hashim Tahir (Region 1)

Hashim Tahir was in his final year at St. John Henry Newman  Catholic Secondary School in the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board when he was nominated for the Yes I Can Transition Award. He was very successful in the work experience program. Hashim worked at both the Dollar Tree and at the Goodwill outlet. He always completed the required tasks on the job and took pride in his work. Hashim also enjoyed community placements during which he expressed his artistic ability and talent through his paintings. 


Andrew Short

Andrew Short (Region 3)

Andrew Short was nominated for a Yes I Can Transition Award in Grade 8, when he attended John G. Althouse  Middle School in the Toronto District School Board.  He made a smooth and successful transition to his local middle school from Sunnyview School. He soon made friends and displayed his kindness and sense of humour.  He did not allow his physical challenges to limit his opportunities, he overcame barriers with determination and eagerly accessed assistive technology. Although the study of French was new for Andrew, he embraced this subject. He actively participated in the Grade 8 physical education program.  At Camp Manitou he excelled in archery and participated in the ropes program. Andrew also played drums in the Grade 8 band.  He displayed enthusiasm and a drive to succeed. Andrew’s resilience and perseverance are inspiring.

Recognition Awards

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

Kathy Short

Dr. Kathy Short

Dr. Kathy Short is a Clinical Child Psychologist with research and practice interests that focus on school mental health promotion, knowledge mobilization, and implementation science. She is the Director for School Mental Health ASSIST, a provincial team designed to help Ontario school boards to support student mental health and well-being. She currently also serves on the Student Well-Being Advisory Committee for the Ministry of Education. She led the Knowledge Translation and Exchange Team for the national School Based Mental Health and Substance Abuse Consortium, and is Chair of the School Mental Health International Leadership Exchange (SMHILE), a network of global leaders focused on key themes in student mental health promotion. Kathy promotes equitable access to evidence-based, implementation-sensitive supports for all children in provincially funded schools, including those with special education needs. Her willingness and ability to collaborate with mental health professionals both nationally and internationally ensures that Ontario is understood to be a leader in school based mental health practices. She leads through action, through influence and through sharing her beliefs without reservation. Kathy is an extraordinary, passionate and highly knowledgeable leader.

Amy Shannon

Amy Shannon

Amy Shannon’s outstanding service and achievements with CEC make her a very worthy recipient of the 2021 CEC Lifetime Achievement Award. She is currently involved with the Executive of CEC Chapter 56 (Toronto), the Board of Directors for Ontario CEC, CEC International and the Canadian Community of CEC. Amy has served CEC in various roles over the past 20 years, including the Executive of Chapter 56, Ontario Subdivision for Learning Disabilities, and the Ontario CEC Board of Directors. In all of these positions Amy demonstrates initiative, enthusiasm and leadership, promoting cooperation and liaison among all levels of the organization. She fosters a connection among all Toronto school boards, as well as colleges and universities. Amy taught at both elementary and secondary levels for the Toronto Catholic District School Board, specializing in Science and Special Education. She was the LEAD (Learning for Emotional and Academic Development) Teacher at Trillium School, an Ontario Provincial Demonstration School. Her last 16 years of teaching were spent at St Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto, in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Care and Treatment in-patient program. Amy’s knowledge of and continued enthusiasm for CEC is at the core of her commitment to the values CEC promotes.

Shawn Moynihan

Dr. Shawn Moynihan (Region 2)

Dr. Shawn Moynihan held several senior leadership positions in the Peel District School Board, the most recent being Superintendent of special education. In this role he demonstrated, leadership and support for exceptional students to inspire success, confidence and hope. He advocated for equity and inclusion and the importance of considering a student’s human rights. His leadership with the implementation of new technological platforms assisted the advancement of special education. He worked tirelessly and collaboratively with staff, providing input and support to manage challenging situations and to advocate on behalf of students with special education needs. Shawn is an exemplary leader who has made significant contributions at the local and provincial level. 


Vicky Branco

Vicky Branco (Region 3)

Vicky Branco is truly an outstanding educational leader. She was a Superintendent in the Toronto District School Board when she was nominated for the Educational Leader of the Year Award. Vicky held many positions in the TDSB, including System Superintendent of Special Education and Inclusion, Central Coordinating Principal of Model Schools for Inner Cities and Superintendent of Networks of schools.  She focused on transforming student learning, supporting professional learning, creating a culture of student and staff well-being and building strong relationships and partnerships within school communities to support all students, especially students with special education needs. Her vision included meaningful inclusion and she worked tirelessly to close achievement gaps to ensure student success. Vicky fully believes that every child with special education needs can learn and has worked with school communities to ensure they do learn.


Jodi Sepowski

Jodi Sepkowski (Region 4)

Jodi Sepkowski is currently a Superintendent of Schools in the York Region District School Board. She received the nomination for Educational Leader of the Year while she was the principal of Student Services in YRDSB. In this role she conducted Special Education Professional Development sessions for Administrators, led and supervised various teams, such as the Complex Needs Team, CPI Instructors Team, Autism Team, and Special Education Consultant Team. She also co-led the Learning Disab¬¬ilities Steering Committee. Jodi also contributed to the writing of Principal Modules for a School Mental Health Ontario Course. Everything she does has students and families at the centre of her decision making. She is a highly respected colleague who always makes the time to address the concerns of staff, parents and students board-wide. Jodi is an advocate for the most vulnerable students and their families and always demonstrates a deep commitment to improving student achievement and well-being.

Dina Mastrofrancesco

Dina Mastrofrancesco (Region 3)

Dina Mastrofrancesco is an English and Special Education teacher at Bishop Allen Academy in the Toronto Catholic District School Board. She works with students with autism, for whom she provides a safe, engaging environment.  Dina cultivates relationships with and among her students and mentors them in their co-op placements.  She provides lunch-and-learn sessions for her colleagues and parent networking nights for families to support the transition to post-secondary education. In the past five years Dina has assisted with planning for a camp leadership retreat, a camp leadership training program and an Autism Spectrum Disorder conference. She has also supported students as the literacy lead, Special Olympics and Best Buddies chapters and was the Principal for a summer transition course. Dina positively impacts students, families and colleagues in a lasting way.


Suzanne Hebert-Lalonde

Suzanne Hébert-Lalonde (Region 2)

As a Special Education Resource Teacher at École élémentaire catholique du Sacré-Coeur, in the Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir school board, Suzanne demonstrates a caring, gentle approach, kind ways and great compassion. Her qualifications and leadership abilities have made her an invaluable asset to this school for many years. Staff and students turn to her for assistance, information, strategies, and best practices. Suzanne ensures that school activities and programs are inclusive for all. Both families and the school community benefit from her sharing of resources, strategies, methods, and programs through a variety of communication formats. Parents recognize the learning skills which their children develop and are appreciative of the ongoing communication that she provides.


Kristie Rusan

Kristie Rusan (Region 1)

Kristie Rusan is an exemplary grade one teacher at Billy Green Elementary School in the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board. She is a keen member of a multidisciplinary team, regularly collaborating with other teachers about students with special needs and modeling strategies for other teachers and support staff.  She contributes to transition meetings, provides detailed insight into student profiles and engages in promoting school-wide professional development. Kristie includes environmental accommodations, advocates for equipment for her students and visits student therapy sessions to transfer strategies to classroom learning goals. She supports families to make community links for services. Kristie’s students greatly benefit from her initiative to access system supports and her active engagement in home, school and community agency communication.


Anita Boyd-Diamond

Anita Boyd-Diamond (Region 4)

Anita Boyd-Diamond was nominated for Teacher of the Year while teaching at Milliken Mills High School in the York Region District School Board.  As a Community Class Teacher her students ranged from grades 9-12, and had various abilities. In this role, Anita positively impacted the lives of her students and their parents.  She challenged her students to reach their full potential, academically, socially, and through the arts. Anita supported and encouraged many of her students who were working towards a certificate of achievement, to reach for and achieve their Ontario Secondary School Diploma. She also prepared many students for a work experience program. Her energetic, engaging approach in the classroom included drama, dance and music. She was an expert with individualizing programming for each student and supporting each student at their own level. Anita tirelessly advocated for her students to have work experience, join clubs, and she ensured access to appropriate credit classes.

Mike Masih

Michael Masih (Region 4)

Mike Masih is a Child and Youth Worker in the York Region District School Board. He truly goes above and beyond in his role at Lake Wilcox Public School, where he has been working in the Autism Spectrum Disorder Community Class for the past ten years. Mike extends his expertise and support throughout the school. During recess he can be found running social skills groups, supervising students in extracurricular activities, playing video games and supporting students who are experiencing difficulty. Teachers look to Mike for advice and support. He always takes the time to get to know students and finds a way to connect with the most vulnerable students. Mike assisted others to create a group known as the Inclusioneers. The group invites students around the school to spread the message of inclusivity and understanding through music. Mike epitomizes what it means to care about kids and this is clear every day in his tireless contribution to the students at this school.


Andrea Link (Region 1)

Andrea Link is an Educational Assistant at Guy B. Brown Elementary School  in the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board. She has a special gift for the “social coaching” of students. She coaches and supports students while they are interacting with their peers. The skills Andrea models and teaches students related to “self talk” is truly inspiring. These “self-talk” social skills are displayed by students during recess, classroom games and physical education activities. The power of her influence was evident when a grade four student with whom she works was overheard to say, "I had a bumpy start to the day, but I turned it around." Andrea truly makes a difference to the students and colleagues with whom she works.

Josie Fragnelli

Josie Fragnelli (Region 4)

Josie Fragnelli is a recently retired Coordinator of Special Programs in the Elementary Panel for the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB). During her tenure, Josie made a significant impact on Student Services through her initiatives and vision. She is a strong advocate for students and views all learners through an asset-based lens. She firmly believes each learner, with his/her unique learning strengths, perspectives, interests and lived experiences, should have access to flexible learning environments to learn and explore. She supported parents, educators and multi-disciplinary teams, listened attentively and respected the voices and perspectives of all stakeholders. Josie played a key role in the development of the YCDSB Safety Planning Guide and coordinated and developed the TRAILS Youth Initiative, an Experiential Learning Program for students at risk. She served on the Special Education Working Committee, Special Education Advisory Committee and was Co-Chair on the Learning Disabilities Steering Committee. She served as a facilitator in the Special Education Part I, II, and Specialist Additional Qualification courses. Josie values the experiences she had working with students, families, community agencies and colleagues.

Nicky Azzarelli

As a parent of a student in a secondary special education program in the York Catholic District School Board, Nicky Azzarelli was supportive of her daughter and always considered the welfare of the other students in the program. She understood the importance of providing experiences to gain independence at school and within the community. This included assisting with transit training, work experience, participation on a bocce team and attendance at school dances and other activities. Nicky’s parental involvement and support of the school program prepared her daughter with skills in independence, transit training, work experience and self-advocacy. Nicky also provided the opportunity for her daughter to work at a summer camp. Her involvement in course selection, transition planning meetings and programming decisions were always made with her daughter’s interests in mind.

Maria Kokai

Dr. Maria Kokai

Dr. Maria Kokai was the Chief Psychologist with the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) from 2004 to 2018 and prior to this she was a school psychologist with TCDSB. During her career she demonstrated an outstanding commitment towards children and youth with special education needs. Community outreach was achieved through the implementation of annual parent/community fairs, and her committee and project work with the Ontario Psychological Association and the Ministry of Education provided significant support to educators and students alike. Her written publications, including a newly published book co-edited with Ester Cole, titled Consultation and Mental Health Interventions in School Settings, inform the field of school psychology. Maria is highly deserving of the award of Partner in Education. 

Clara Peel - fraktals

fraktals Handmade Belgian Chocolate

Clara Peel, Supervisor


fraktals, a business in Aurora, Ontario that makes handmade Belgian chocolate buttercrunch, is a kind, accepting, inclusive and supportive work environment.  This business provides work experience for secondary students with special education needs. The staff are willing to discuss issues, provide accommodations and problem solve to maintain work expectations. They differentiate tasks, provide visual instructions, provide a private work environment and/or adapt hours, as required. fraktals staff are eager to interact with students and they demonstrate positive communication with the students, families and school staff.  Management and other staff are kind, caring and accommodating.  In the words of a parent whose son was employed at fraktals, “fraktals offered my son a purpose, a place to go and in many ways, even a second family. I will always be grateful to fraktals for what they have done for my son.” This is truly an example of thriving in the community and promoting the employment of individuals with exceptionalities.

Moira Sinclair

Moira Sinclair

Moira Sinclair has been a long time, dedicated member of CEC through the local Chapter 56, in Toronto. Moira held many positions related to special education with the City of York (Toronto District School Board) prior to becoming an Education Officer with the Ontario Ministry of Education. Her contributions to special education in Ontario include involvement in many province-wide special projects. As a CEC member since 1974, Moira has been active with the chapter executive, assisting with the Yes I Can Award Celebrations. She has been instrumental in reaching out to the French school boards and French schools to seek nominations for all categories of Yes I Can awards. She received the Ontario CEC Educational Leader of the Year Award in 2000. Moira has attended many of the Ontario CEC conferences over the years, mentored new chapter members, and most recently hosted virtual chapter meetings, enabling the chapter executive to remain connected and to continue the work of supporting the special education community.


Ross Caradonna

Ross Caradonna

Ross Caradonna has been an active member of CEC since 1967 and a highly valued member of the executive of Chapter 56 in Toronto. Ross has assisted with all aspects of the chapter over the years. He has been integral to supporting Provincial Conferences and International CEC Conventions held in the Toronto area. Ross also attended International CEC Conferences to represent Ontario CEC and to develop and maintain connections with the international organization. Ross received a CEC Educational Leader of the Year Award in 1996. He was one of the founding members of the Ontario Council of Behavioural Disorders and has been involved as a chair and board member with several community organizations  Through his many supervisory positions with the Toronto District School Board and involvement with Special Education and Section Classrooms programs, Ross mentored beginning teachers and encouraged their involvement in Ontario CEC, thus providing teachers with resources, support, and opportunities for involvement in the local CEC chapter activities. 

Past Award Recipients

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


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