One of the highlights of each LDA Conference is the presentation of awards to our members who have accomplished outstanding feats in fulfilling the mission of the Learning Disabilities Association of America on behalf of all individuals with learning disabilities. TheAwards presented in Anaheim, California at the 2014 Conference continued this practice. The following individuals were the recipients of this year’s awards.
LDA Pioneer Award
Our 2014 Pioneer of the Year Award goes to Dr. Doris Johnson. In the early 1960’s there was very little known about educating children who had specific learning disabilities. Children had limited opportunities for learning and were often grouped with the mentally challenged and the physically handicapped as well as those with behavioral problems. But a young master’s student became interested in children who have severe communication and learning problems.
In 1963, along with her colleague Helmer R. Myklebust and many of the other young pioneers, our award recipient attended a conference that would change the way society would view children with specific learning disabilities. This ultimately would lead to the federal definition of learning disabilities, which in essence states that such children have no primary sensory deficits, intellectual disabilities, emotional disturbance or motor handicaps, yet have problems processing information.
In 1967, Dr. Myklebust and our own Dr. Doris Johnson wrote a book that became one of the foundational texts for learning disabilities. She has been a strong leader in the organization since that pivotal meeting in 1963. Dr. Johnson was a part of the committee that established a task force to address the crisis in LD. She coauthored Definition of the Condition Specific Learning Disabilities, published in 1965.
The 1991 annual Conference Program book was dedicated to Dr. Johnson, Professor and Program Head of LD, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois in appreciation for chairing the LDA of America Professional Advisory Board for six years.
Doris Johnson has been a gentle giant, leading with compassion, teaching graduate students, imparting her knowledge to many who have made successful careers and have become leaders in today’s world of Learning Disabilities.
LDA President’s Award
The President’s Award is presented each year to the individual who has provided outstanding service to LDA during the year. The recipient is selected by the LDA President and presented at the annual LDA Conference banquet. The LDA President, Patricia Latham, presented the President’s Award to Linda Modenbach. Linda was recognized for the extraordinary amount of time and talent she contributed during the year. Any time Linda was asked for her help, she agreed. Linda served as Conference Chair for the 2014 Conference, member of the LDA Board of Directors, and member of the Nominating, Advocacy, Bylaws, and Support Services Committees.
Sam Kirk Educator of the Year Award
Each year the LDA of America selects an outstanding educator to receive the Sam Kirk Educator of the Year Award. It’s named in honor of Dr. Samuel A. Kirk, psychologist, scholar, humanitarian and pioneer in the field of learning disabilities. This year the award had a special presence as it was presented by Dr. Kirk’s great-niece, Dr. Jackie Kirk-Martinez. She presented the award to a Maryland LDA representative on behalf of our 2014 recipient, Bonnie Massimino. Bonnie is from Olney, Maryland. She received her M.Ed. from Towson University with an emphasis in Reading and Reading Disabilities. For many years she was a special education teacher and is currently a Learning Specialist. She is very active in her community and many people sent references indicating the assistance she has given them and how she makes a difference in Montgomery County. She has given many presentations and written many articles. As a leader she organizes professional meetings for special educators, learning specialists and tutors. Her drive and her passion come from her own undiagnosed learning disabilities she experienced in her youth. This gives her the reason for her work which will continue as she reaches out to more and more students.
Bonnie’s gift is that she looks at each individual to find their strengths and needs and creates a profile for each one to implement a teaching/learning style. To build self-esteem she looks at not just the academics but at the whole student including: building on your strengths, knowing who you are, learning style, social interaction, and improving self-advocacy skills. We congratulate you- Bonnie Massimino and wish you much success for many years to come.
Harrison Sylvester Award
The Harrison Sylverster Award recognizes an adult with learning disabilities who has shown a strong dedication and commitment to advancing the issues of adults with learning disabilities. The award was created in 2010 to honor Harry Sylvester, a gentle but strong voice in the field of learning disabilities. Harry discovered in his mid-50s, after struggling for most of life, that he was an adult with learning disabilities. With the knowledge of his learning disabilities came an empowerment to help others, which he did, and dedicated his life to this work. Harry was a President of the Learning Disabilities Association of America and carried LDA’s message of acceptance, understanding and support throughout the country.
This year LDA’s Adult Topics Committee received five nominations for this award, all of whom were certainly worthy of this prestigious honor. Robert Crawford was chosen as this year’s recipient from among this distinguished group because of the breadth and scope of his work not only in the US, but internationally to empower those with learning disabilities. Rob is the co-founder and CEO of Life Development Institute located in Glendale, AZ. LDI provides non-traditional, college-capable students a practical and inclusive bridge to improve college/career readiness and success. A tireless advocate for adults with learning disabilities, Rob has served as a volunteer and consultant with many organizations in numerous capacities such as LDA; the National Institute for Literacy; Administration for Children, Youth, and Families, Department of Health and Human Services; and the Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education to name a few.