College of Education Alumni Society honors 2013 award recipients

November 20, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The College of Education Alumni Society announced its 2013 award winners recently at the Penn State College of Education Alumni Society Awards Banquet. All recipients are alumni of Penn State’s College of Education and have distinguished themselves in their careers, as well as in the field of education.

Excellence in Education Award
Dr. George Santiago Jr., '94 Ph.D., '86 M.Ed.

Santiago, the president of Briarcliff College, received both his doctorate and master's of education in educational administration from Penn State in 1994 and 1986, respectively. Prior to his Penn State experience he received his bachelor of arts degree in 1983 from Rutgers University, where he majored in geography and Spanish.

Currently, Santiago serves as the fourth president of Briarcliff College, in Bethpage, N.Y. Previously, his experience has been in teaching, research and administration in both the public and private sector. Santiago is an active member of numerous professional organizations with multiple presentations and publications to his credit.

His community involvement has garnered substantial honors including the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year award, Hempstead Hispanic Civic Association’s Pioneer in Education award, the Long Island GLBT Network Services Leadership in Support of Equality award, the Boy Scouts’ Theodore Roosevelt Council Community Leadership award and the Girl Scouts’ Character award.

Santiago has spent his career championing the cause of underrepresented populations and advocating for policies that increase access to higher education. His leadership to educate the college community has led to an unprecedented partnership with community-based organizations that not only give priority to education and the less fortunate, but promote his vision of advocacy for human rights and human dignity.

Additionally, his accomplishments at Briarcliffe College include greater access to education by underrepresented student populations, the adoption of the Collegiate Learning experience into the curriculum, the expansion of new degree programs that reflect New York state market needs, the introduction of a third campus in Long Island City, Queens, the launch of a major re-branding campaign, expanded the mission of the college to include health-related degree programs, creation of a $1.85 million dental hygiene clinic and strengthening the role of athletics within the life of the college including five national championships in men’s baseball and men’s soccer.

“Dr. Santiago has devoted his career to the support of higher education and community-based networks to advocate for educational access and economic change,” said Kathy Genua, Briarcliffe’s vice president of Student Affairs. “His loyalty is unswerving and his integrity is of the highest level of magnitude. Dr. Santiago has that rarest of qualities known as style.”

Outstanding Teaching Award
Karen Drosinos, '98 E K Ed

Drosinos is a 1998 graduate of Penn State with a bachelor of science degree in elementary and kindergarten education. She also received a master of arts in curriculum and instruction from the University of Maryland in 2006. Drosinos received her National Board Certification in Early Childhood Education in 2011. This year marks her 16th year teaching kindergarten.

Drosinos's teaching style is described as mesmerizing and awe-inspiring as she focuses on each and every student in an atmosphere of joyous exploration — a teacher whose disciplined teaching is guised as play. Her students are engaged in learning adventures suited to their individual modalities and academic and social needs all while ensuring that the shared lessons are thematic and integrated with both the curriculum and school system’s strategic plan.

She serves as lead mentor conducting sessions that encompass a variety of topics designed to help new teachers and mentors work collaboratively. Videos of her classroom style of teaching have even been added to the school division’s professional development libraries, enabling teachers across the division to observe a model for effective strategies that advance student learning.

Highly regarded in her field, it’s no wonder that Drosinos was not only named the 2010 Reading Teacher of the Year, but subsequently named the 2011 Citywide Teacher of the Year by the Virginia Beach City Public Schools. She also received the 2011 Virginia Regional Teacher of the Year by the Virginia State Department of Education. This past May, Drosinos was selected by the Virginia Lottery as its 2013 Super Teacher.

“Mrs. Drosinos is the epitome of what Dr. Fred Jones refers to in his book 'Tools for Teaching' as a ‘natural’ teacher,” said Pembroke Elementary school principal Linda Hayes. “In a seemingly effortless manner, she creates a magical learning environment for her students. One can’t help but feel they have stepped into a wonderland full of knowledge and opportunity.”

Leadership & Service Award
Lawrence Mussoline, '98 Ph.D.

Mussoline received a doctorate in educational administration from Penn State in 1998. Mussoline's 1983 master's in educational administration is from Shippensburg University and he received a 1979 bachelor of science degree from Bloomsburg University in secondary education in comprehensive social studies.

Mussoline has served as teacher, assistant principal, principal and superintendent in two school districts. Currently, he serves as superintendent of the Downingtown Area School District.

He is active with several professional organizations, including the Pennsylvania Department of Education, where he serves as a facilitator of the Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership program for early career school administrators. He has served on the governing boards of Pennsylvania Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Lehigh University Study Council, Penn State Great Valley Advisory Council, Penn State’s Education Outreach Advisory Board and the Board of Governers of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. Additionally, Mussoline remains active as a senior lecturer at Wilkes College, Temple and Drexel Universities.

Under Mussoline’s leadership, Downingtown saw the creation of the first Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Academy in the country with an international baccalaureate curriculum. In only its second year, the STEM Academy has received worldwide recognition.

“Dr. Mussoline is a multi-dimensional educator who sees the importance of creating a well-articulated vision,” said Director of Pupil Service Karen Zerr. “His primary focus has been, and to this day remains: serving all the stakeholders of the community he serves. He is truly an exemplary leader who continually strives to model the practice that we can always do better.”

Outstanding New Graduate Award
Henry Laboranti, '10 Sec Ed.

Laboranti graduated in 2010 with a bachelor of science degree in secondary education with a minor in history.

Laboranti began his career at Lackawanna College in Towanda, Pa., as a part-time adviser, building a strong relationship with his advisees. Shortly thereafter, Tropical Storm Lee ravaged the town and campus with five feet of flood waters. Not only did the students not have a classroom, but all files and materials were destroyed. After being relocated to a smaller building, Laboranti was instrumental in keeping the students committed to Lackawanna College and he rallied the students to make their space an uplifting environment in which to learn despite all they had lost.

Upon promotion to enrollment specialist, Laboranti continued to have an impact on his students. He revamped the student council and engaged them in projects that provided Christmas presents for less fortunate children and raised funds for student scholarships. Laboranti demonstrated his commitment to Lackawanna’s mission of aiding military veterans by guiding efforts to raise funds to sponsor a brick to be placed at the Sept. 11 memorial and to send a wounded veteran to the Super Bowl.

“I continue to be impressed with Henry. He is an amazing enrollment specialist, advocate and teacher as well as an important and valued part of our college family,” said Jill Murray, Lackawanna’s executive vice president and chief administrative officer. “Penn State is fortunate to call him an alum.”

Outstanding Student Teaching Awards

Fall 2012
Max Besong (secondary), '12 Sec Ed

Besong, a middle school math teacher at his alma mater, Bald Eagle Area High School, received a bachelor of science degree in secondary education mathematics in 2012.

During his student teaching practicum in the Bellefonte Area School District, Besong’s organizational skills and a high level of motivation set the standard for teaching AP Statistics, Algebra 2, Honors Algebra and the Algebra 1 curriculum. Employing sound, research-based instructional strategies, he provided his students with step-by-step guides that made it easy for them to share their work with others. Besong utilized every effort to ensure his students’ success. One struggling student was encouraged to excel at his assessment tests by placing a soccer ball at his feet for motivation. Ever attentive to the needs of his class, Besong prefaced the more challenging aspects of math with advice that helped students avoid potentially discouraging aspects.

As a volunteer for the high school’s summer band camp, the students were inspired by Besong who, as a Blue Band member, combined his love of music and technology to create a gaming app called “Fight on State.” The application not only allows the gamer to help a drum major avoid pitfalls and collect points, but also encourages online contributions to THON.

“With a professional rapport based on honesty, humor and respect, Max strives to connect learning with real life scenarios or interests familiar to his students,” said student teaching supervisor Hazel Stryker. “He exhibits an encouraging manner to ensure his learners reach their fullest potential.”

Nicole Birkbeck (elementary), '12 E K Ed

Birkbeck received a bachelor of science degree in elementary and kindergarten education in 2012.

Birkbeck’s student teaching experience took place in a third-grade classroom at the Jamison Elementary School in the Central Bucks School District. By preparing lessons that were actively engaging and designed to appeal to multiple intelligences, Birkbeck established a supportive, safe and enthusiastic environment that encouraged her students to take intellectual risks.

Using strategies appropriate for her third grade class, she created an original unit on voting to help the students learn about the election process. Her students learned how to pay taxes by using Skittles, and to demonstrate travel she put on a pilot’s hat as they virtually visited various landmarks around the United States.

Birkbeck frequently used technology to enhance her student’s learning experience. By collecting video clips from popular children’s shows that involved television characters participating in various forms of public participation, she was able to teach her students about having a voice in their own community. With videos, TV and computers being a major component in children’s lives, Birkbeck used this element to explain concepts and make connections to everyday life outside of the classroom.

“Children do not miss ‘OK teachers,’ they miss ‘outstanding teachers.’ Miss Birkbeck cares to make a difference in the lives of each and every child by making learning fun and interesting,” said Natalie Lucca, a parent of one of Birkbeck’s students. “When a teacher has that gift, it is the kind of gift that keeps on giving. As a parent, all I can say is simply this: ‘If only you could see what I have seen, you would be amazed.’”

Birkbeck is currently pursuing a full time elementary teaching position in the Bucks County area. She continues to gather more experience by substituting in three school districts: Central Bucks, Council Rock and Pennsbury. Birkbeck is eagerly waiting to have her own classroom where she can continue to share her love of learning and making a difference in the lives of children.

Spring 2013

Eleanor Graham Savage (secondary), '13 Sec Ed

Savage doubled majored with a bachelor of science degree in secondary biology in the College of Education and a bachelor of science in biology from the Eberly College of Science.

Savage did her pre-service and student teaching at the Moshannon Valley High School in Houtzdale, Pa., teaching 10th- through 12th-grade biology, biotechnology and advanced biology classes. She also planned and delivered instruction to her students that were in alignment with Pennsylvania Academic Standards as they prepared for the first offering of the Spring Keystone Biology Exams.

Savage proved to be a highly dedicated and responsible teacher, adapting easily to expected events. During the last month of student teaching, Savage’s mentor was abruptly absent. She quickly met the challenge head on and turned the balance of the semester into a successful transition for her students. One lesson in food science demonstrated the effects of proteins, cooling, exoethermic reactions and yeast fermentation by making homemade ice cream and root beer. The lesson catered to what students found interesting, and the students had a great time consuming their creations.

Savage was very visible within the school community. She accompanied the National Honor Society on a trip to New York, taught trombone lessons and planned a field trip for her students to visit the Penn State Forensics Department. Savage has taken a long-term substitute teaching position in biology at Moshannon Valley while her former mentor teacher is on sabbatical.

“Eleanor has approached teaching with maturity, enthusiasm and demonstrated sound knowledge and effective use of lesson planning concepts,” Savage’s student teaching supervisor, Thomas Musselman, noted. “She has consistently displayed all the qualities and attributes required of a successful educator.”

Kasey Phillips (elementary), '13 E K Ed

Phillips received a bachelor of science degree in elementary and kindergarten education in 2013.

Phillips had a linked placement in the Bellefonte Elementary School’s kindergarten classroom. Bringing with her the experience of having served with America Reads with previous placements in two elementary schools and a day care center, Phillips effectively dealt with behavioral issues, classroom work and multiple interpersonal issues with an instinctive understanding of children. She related lessons that captivated her students, such as the development of a unit on animals that integrated stories, projects and technology, which made her classroom a place of excitement and celebration of the learning experience.

She participated in school-wide activities such as the Million Penny Drive, Winter Carnival, Mini-Thon, Family Math Night and Count Down to Kindergarten. She also volunteered to tutor students who were struggling with math.

“Miss Phillips has a wonderful ability to create a student-centered environment that is conducive to productive learning. It is through her obvious love and enthusiasm with the children, that she loves to teach,” a parent wrote. “As she finishes her student teaching experience and heads into her own classroom, she will be remembered as a unique young woman who successfully introduced to the joys of kindergarten to her class.”

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Last Updated November 20, 2013