College of Education honors outstanding alumni

November 15, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s College of Education recognized nine alumni for their career achievements at a banquet held this fall at The Nittany Lion Inn.

Each year, the college’s Alumni Society presents awards to graduates who have excelled in their fields and have continued to serve Penn State and the College of Education. This year’s recipients are Roger Williams, Barbara Michael, John Rozzo, Mary Ricketts Roberts, Nicole Birkbeck, Caitlyn Ollendyke, Samantha Sarsfield, Zoe Rafferty and Brittany Rodriguez.

Roger Williams received the Alumni Excellence Award, the highest honor given to alumni of the College of Education. Williams earned three degrees from Penn State, including a doctorate in higher education in 1988, and served as executive director of the Penn State Alumni Association and associate vice president for Alumni Relations from 2003 until he retired in June 2015. He also was an affiliate associate professor of higher education at Penn State and authored 30 published articles and chapters, and one book. Prior to returning to Penn State to lead the nation’s largest dues-paying alumni organization, he served as vice president of communications at Georgetown University and associate vice chancellor at the University of Arkansas.

Barbara Michael received the Service to Penn State Award. She earned her bachelor’s degree in education in 1974 and her master’s of counselor education in 1977 from Penn State. She also served as an alumni director for the college for more than 30 years and is a life member of the Penn State Alumni Association. Michael currently is the field experience coordinator and an adjunct professor in West Chester University’s Department of Counselor Education.

John Rozzo, a 1999 graduate in elementary education, received the Leadership and Service Award for his achievements in the field of education. As the assistant superintendent of Upper St. Clair School District in Pittsburgh, he oversees K-12 curriculum development, leads the district’s strategic planning, and supervises and evaluates district administrators. He previously served as principal of Fort Couch Middle School in 2014 when the school ranked No. 14 among the 50 best middle schools in the country.

Current second-grade teacher Mary Ricketts Robert received the Outstanding Teaching Award for her excellence in teaching methodologies, knowledge of subject matter and ability to inspire students. A 1989 graduate of Penn State, Roberts with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and has worked for the past 23 years with the State College Area School District, where her colleagues continually praise her teaching abilities and the support she provides to students and families.

Nicole Birkbeck, a 2012 graduate of the college, received the Outstanding New Graduate Award. A kindergarten teacher in the Council Rock School District in suburban Philadelphia, she recently introduced BeeBot, a bumblebee-themed robot, to her classroom to help students write letters, solve mazes and follow directions. She currently is pursuing a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on children’s literature.

Caitlyn Ollendyke and Samantha Sarsfield are the recipients of the Fall 2015 Outstanding Student Teacher Award for CEAED and secondary education, respectively. Ollendyke completed her student teaching experience at Standing Stone Elementary School in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, where she was exposed to and learned the struggles of students in a rural district. She also volunteered with the school’s CARE team, which provides backpacks containing food and clothing for disadvantaged families. She currently is a second-grade teacher at Park Forest Elementary School in State College.

Sarsfield, who received her degree in secondary social studies education with a minor in special education, completed her student teaching at Pleasant Hills Middle School in Pittsburgh where she taught seventh-grade geography and led five, full-inclusive classrooms that contained multiple students with intellectual and physical disabilities. Sarsfield also served as the College of Education’s student marshal for Penn State’s fall 2015 commencement ceremony. She currently teaches social studies at Millbrook High School in Winchester, Virginia.

Zoe Rafferty and Brittany Rodriguez are the recipients of the Spring 2016 Outstanding Student Teacher Award for CEAED and secondary education, respectively. As a student teacher in a second-grade classroom at Penns Valley Area School District, Rafferty was challenged with learning a new teaching model — Learning Focus — and had to participate in specialized training. She graduated from Penn State in May 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in childhood and early adolescence education, pre-kindergarten through fourth-grade option.

Rodriguez completed her student teaching experience at Penns Valley High School before graduating with a degree in secondary education, English and communication, with a minor in English. At Penns Valley, she was in a linked placement, which required her to teach three classes — ninth-grade English, ninth-grade honors English and Literature, and the Movies, a senior-high elective course — and follow a block schedule. She currently teaches English at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

For more information about the College of Education Alumni Society, visit http://ed.psu.edu/alumni-friends online.

  • 2016 College of Education alumni awards

    College of Education Dean David Monk welcomed the 2016 Alumni Society Award winners to a banquet in their honor. Pictured are, back row from left: Samantha Sarsfield, Zoe Rafferty, David Monk, Caitlyn Ollendyke; middle row, from left: Roger Williams, Barbara Michael, John Rozzo; front row, from left: Mary Ricketts Robert, Brittany Rodriguez and Nicole Birkbeck.

    IMAGE: Steve Tressler/Vista Print Studios

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 15, 2016