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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. The awards presented in Orlando at the 53rd International Conference continued this practice. The following individuals were the recipients of this year’s awards.

LDA Award

The LDA Award is the highest honor given by LDA. It’s awarded annually in recognition of and appreciation for outstanding leadership at the national level in the field of learning disabilities.

The honoree for this year has for over three decades been a passionate advocate working directly with persons with learning disabilities, their teachers, and mental health professionals in creating environments that allows them to learn better and feel happier. He has worked tirelessly during his illustrious career as a special education classroom teacher, university professor and presently as a clinical neuropsychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School in the Department of Psychiatry, to support individuals with learning disabilities.

The LDA Award Honoree is Jerome J. Schultz. While a faculty member of the Harvard Medical School Psychiatry Department, he is also the Consulting Neuropsychologist of the Public School System of Newton, Northborough/Southborough and Cambridge Massachusetts. He was the Founding Director of a diagnostic LD clinic called the Learning Lab at Lesley University, and later as the Co-Director of the Center for Child and Adolescent Development at the Cambridge (MA) Health Alliance. Dr. Schultz spent many years in consulting work with individual clients but now focuses on making a bigger contribution to the special education field by engaging in public speaking, teacher training, supervision, and consultation to schools across the United States and abroad. Dr. Schutz is a sought after speaker for national and international conferences who has written extensively about meeting the needs of persons with learning disabilities. He has a significant Twitter following and writes a special education and psychology blog on Huffington Post. His book titled, No Where to Hide: Why Kids with ADHD and LD Hate School and What We Can Do About It has received international acclaim.

Dr. Schultz has served in many capacities for LDA including being the Chair of the Professional Advisory Board. He also serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of the LDA journal, Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal. In October of 2015 Dr. Schultz conducted an LDA Webinar titled, Stress!!! The Missing Piece of the Puzzle, What to Know and What to DO! Dr. Schultz is a highly regarded leader in meeting the mission of LDA, “…to create opportunities for success for all individuals affected by learning disabilities and to reduce the incidence of learning disabilities in future generations.”

Harrison Sylvester Award

janeenThis award honors and recognizes an adult with learning disabilities who has shown a strong dedication and commitment to advancing the issues of adults with learning disabilities. The 2016 recipient of the Harrison Sylvester Award is Janeen Steel from Los Angeles, CA. Janeen was diagnosed with learning disabilities and ADHD in her mid-twenties. After being diagnosed, she succeeded in being accepted to UCLA School of Law, and her law degree is allowing her to pursue her life’s calling of advocating for students with disabilities.

Janeen founded the Learning Rights Project in 1999 and the Learning Rights Law Center in 2005. The LRLC provides legal services to students and families of students with disabilities. She uses these organizations to provide resources to parents for grassroots movements toward advocacy for students with disabilities. She acts as a role model and shows students with learning disabilities that there is hope for the future.

Janeen Steel has become one of Southern California’s foremost experts in special-education law and grass-roots, parent-led organizing. She authored a chapter of the book Education for All: Critical Issues in the Education of Children and Youth with Disabilities, which contains writings by many of the country’s most respected special and general education professionals. She was chosen by the USC University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) to help develop the curriculum and to lead trainings of UCEDD’s SEAT (Special Education Advocacy Training) Project. Long Beach City College has honored Ms. Steel, an alumna, as a Viking of the Decade for the 1980s.

Janeen Steel has been an adjunct professor at a number of prominent institutions including the UCLA School of Law, Loyola Law School and the USC School of Law. She currently teaches a course on special education law at Claremont Graduate University.

Sam Kirk Educator of the Year

Each year the LDA of America selects an outstanding educator to receive the Sam Kirk Educator of the Year Award. It is named in honor of Dr. Samuel A. Kirk, psychologist, scholar, humanitarian and pioneer in the field of learning disabilities. This year the award was presented to Nancy Hammill from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Nancy received her Master of Science in Education from Bank Street Graduate College of Education in New York. She is currently a Learning Therapist, Professional Development and Outreach Coordinator, for the Cooper Learning Center, Pediatric Department of Cooper University Hospital. Nancy has spent more than 20 years in the field of education. She has worked in public and private school systems in both suburban and urban settings. Helping students thrive is a personal calling for Nancy. As a person with learning disabilities herself, she knows the impact learning differences can have on someone’s self-esteem. It is her mission to not only have her students achieve academic success, but also have them learn to appreciate themselves and their uniqueness as individuals.

At the LDA of New Jersey Conference (October 2015) “Navigate the Maze” held at Rutgers University, Nancy’s presentation topic was: The “Write” Strategies for Improving Writing Skills for Struggling Students. This is just one example of Nancy’s depth of passion and tireless dedication to improving the lives of persons with disabilities.

Nancy has an extraordinary depth and breadth of expertise with specialized training in the areas of corrective reading, reading comprehension, reading fluency, written expression, executive functioning and self-regulation. An accolade that was shared about Nancy said that she is “…one of those incredible people who are just “born” with natural teaching instincts. We all know the kind of people I am referring to and that these qualities far exceed the boundaries of educational training…”

We also salute the honorable mention nominees for 2016:

  • Julianne Alvarado, Illinois
  • Annette Lalley, Michigan
  • Tobey Bullington, Oklahoma
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