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2018 Ohio School Psychologist of the Year - Dr. Lynn Ciccantelli

Remarks from Melissa Bestgen, Awards Committee Co-Chair:

Good afternoon and welcome to the 2018 Spring Awards Banquet! I am Melissa Bestgen, co-chair of the Awards Committee. We are happy today to present two awards to two very deserving school psychologists.

First, our School Psychologist of the Year Award, presented to – Dr. Lynn Ciccantelli!

Dr. Lynn Ciccantelli has served as a school psychologist in Nordonia Hills City Schools since 1998. Dr. Ciccantelli is known for working her caseload with a level of skill and compassion that has marked her as a leader in the district. She connects with her students beyond assessment, though, working with 3rd/4th grade girls to develop social and life skills and build self-esteem, as well as providing material and emotional supports to the low income students in her buildings. Dr. Ciccantelli also serves as the district’s Down Syndrome specialist and as a member of the district’s crisis management committee and safety committee. She provides consultation and professional development opportunities to her fellow school psychologists and educators on social emotional and academic supports for students to ensure all student receive the supports they need.

In addition to serving the families of Nordonia Hills, Dr. Ciccantelli also works as a professor at the University of Akron and a professor and practicum/intern supervisor with John Carroll University. She is also heavily involved with professional associations, acting as the KAASP representative to OSPA, the OSPA membership co-chair, and has presented research on the collaboration with staff on social emotional needs and the academic needs of homeless students at NASP.

The OSPA Executive Board is honored to present Dr. Ciccantelli with the 2018 School Psychologist of the Year Award in recognition of her outstanding service delivery.

Remarks from Dr. Lynn Ciccantelli

Thank you. I am pleased, honored, and humbled to be the recipient of the School Psychologist of the Year award. Words cannot convey my sincere appreciation and gratitude.

When one receives an award, it becomes a golden opportunity to reflect and give thanks to those individuals who have been instrumental in making us who we are today.

I’d like to begin by expressing thanks to the Awards Committee and all of the members of OSPA for the honor you have bestowed me. Thank you to the OSPA Executive Board, a group of warm welcoming, and highly talented individuals who work diligently to get our voice heard and who lead us to be one of the most highly respected organizations across the nation. I am very proud to be a part of this group and it is with great pride that I say that I am a school psychologist. It certainly is one of the finest professions. In this field we have the opportunity to impact the lives of children of all ages. What could be nobler?

I’d also like to thank my local organization, the Kent/Akron Association of School Psychologists, specifically Jenna Hete and Stephanie Jozwakowski for nominating me, and together with Keith Mesmer, Carrie Hutchinson, and Bradley Paramore for writing letters on my behalf. I will always remember your kind words which touched me deeply. Like you, they will always hold a special place with me. Supervising practicum students and interns has been one of the highlights of my career, especially when I get to see them quickly take on leadership roles in our organization, currently like Bradley and Jenna.

Shortly after I was notified I had been nominated, I called my son Dan, and told him of about the award. Dan, being the sports enthusiast that he is, said, “Wow mom! That’s great. It’s almost like winning the Heisman.” I thought, “You know, it kind of is.”

Some particulars I recently learned about the Heisman is that it is not just awarded solely based on one’s own abilities, although that is an important aspect. It recognizes the excellent standing of the team. In other words, being on a winning team makes a player come out higher in the rankings. The team helps the player look better.

Also, many Heisman winners tend to have a story. Sometimes that story goes along with that person’s accomplishments, and includes an understanding that adversity can actually make us stronger, and that challenges can make us better than we ever thought possible. So, here is a piece of my story…

Success means nothing without a strong team. I am fortunate to be part of some great teams! As teams go, my family are like the “Starters”. They are the ones I need and rely on for the important things in life. Therefore, I must begin by thanking my family. You are my heart, my greatest treasure, my most precious gift. God has blessed me enormously with a family like you.

Joining me today is my husband, Pat, and my sons, Dan and Brian. Pat, you are my best friend. You have encouraged me and listened to me, and my long stories that usually go on forever. You probably deserve a reward of your own! You have walked beside me on this wonderful, and sometimes rocky journey, and I can’t imagine doing it with anyone else. We have been a strong team, and together raised three wonderful children.

My daughter, Jenn who could not be here today, is a teacher in South Carolina. She is an amazing woman, and an incredible mother. Watching her with her daughter, my granddaughter, is one of life’s most precious moments.
My son, Dan, a graduate of The Ohio State University, is probably one of the biggest, most devoted Ohio sports fans—yes, including being a fan of the Cleveland Browns. You are a person of true character-kindness, compassion, honesty and integrity. You work hard and put your heart and soul into everything you do. You care deeply about people and hold them close to your vest. You make me very proud.

And my son Brian. You have created in me a deeper level of empathy, patience and understanding than I ever thought possible. Because of you I am a better person and a better school psychologist. Watching you forge ahead every day, despite your challenges, has made me a cheerleader for children who struggle and their parents. Through you, I have learned to appreciate the joy and beauty in the little things, and the many unexpected things.
I am told that in the end, we find the little things really were the big things in life.

I’d also extend my gratitude to my parents who worked hard to provide for me, allowing me many opportunities. Joel Osteen said “You need to associate with people that inspire you, people that challenge you to rise higher, people that make you better.”

The other team is my “Defense” or the people with whom I work: Keith Mesmer, Gina Worsdall, Emma Sacha, Lauren Miller, Carrie Hutchinson, and the staff and teachers with the Nordonia Hills City Schools, or endearingly referred to as “the land of rainbows and unicorns” coined by my former practicum student, and now colleague, Jenna Hete. Each of you make even the toughest days more tolerable just by being there, and for that I feel very fortunate.

I’d like to thank just a few more people who have believed in me, supported and encouraged me, and gave me opportunities to grow in a field that I love. My “Offense” of Jeanne Jenkins, School Psychology Program Coordinator at John Carroll University, and one of the hardest working women I know, “I don’t think you ever sleep”; Sue Chute, and Karen Muffley former Nordonia administrators; and, my friend Jo Ventura who has been an angel to our family and to whom I am forever indebted.

You see, in the end, we all have Heisman moments, those unforgettable moments where we finish strong, and where we are all winners because of the tapestries of our lives.

As I conclude, I’d will share a brief story about one of my favorite elementary school students who I will call Max. Last month, Max, stopped by my room, like he does several times every day. I got my daily hug and as he was on his way out the door, he remembered it was my birthday. He turned around and said, “Mrs. C., Happy Birthday!” I said, “How nice of you to remember.” And just then, he asked the dreaded question, “How old are you?” “Oh boy, I thought, that one I am not answering!” So I said, “Old!” Fortunately, he let that one go. Then he proceeded, “What do you want for your birthday?” Knowing this student is infamous for bringing in items from his home for the staff-- things like jewelry and other valuables, I was very careful in my response. So, I replied, “You know, I just want my kids to call me today.” He gave me a funny look, of “Really?” and proceeded to say, “Well, how about a blanket?” “Oh no,” I thought, as I imagined him bringing in the biggest blanket he could find at home. I said, “You are so sweet, but really, I have everything I need.” And to that he said, “Well then, I will just wish for you to be taller.”
So while I am not actually taller, in stature that is, his wish has been granted. Today, I am truly walking a little taller.

Thank you, and have a blessed day.

2018 - Early Career Award - Dr. Anna "Quinn" Denzer-Emerson

The Awards Committee granted the 2018 OSPA Early Career Award to Dr. Anna "Quinn" Denzer-Emerson after her tragic death. Dr. Rob Kubick explained why she was so deserving of this honor.

The following is a transcript of the OSPA Fall Conference Early Career Award presentation on Nov. 8, 2018.

Good afternoon, everyone. I’m Rob Kubick, co-chair of the OSPA Awards Committee, and I’m here to present the 2018 OSPA Early Career Award.
This award recognizes a school psychology professional who wastes no time in making a mark. This year, OSPA is pleased to recognize Dr. Anna “Quinn” Denzer-Emerson with the OSPA Early Career Award.

Quinn graduated from the School Psychology Program at Kent State University and completed her school psychology internship in the Akron Public Schools. It was my great honor to be one of Quinn’s primary supervisors during her internship in Akron.

From the beginning, Quinn made it clear to the staff in Akron that she would not be pursuing full-time employment in or around the Akron area. Instead, she wanted to learn all that she could in what she called “the big city” and then take her knowledge and experience to a school district closer to her hometown of Mount Vernon. As she neared the conclusion of her internship, Quinn began looking for school psychologist positions in that area. She soon landed an interview in the Cardington-Lincoln Schools in neighboring Morrow County. Within minutes of Quinn leaving the interview, her prospective supervisor called my cell phone. Overwhelmed to have a chance to add a candidate with such outstanding qualifications, skills, and demeanor, this man asked me, “Please, please, tell me… Is she for real?” When I asked him how long he had interviewed her, he told me it had been about 45 minutes. I told him, “Then I regret to inform you that you’ve only scratched the surface of how wonderful she is.”

Quinn got that job and served with distinction in Cardington, but home continued to beckon. She returned to Knox County when she took a school psychologist position for the Fredericktown Local Schools. Still, from the outset of her professional career, Quinn had consistently identified working as a school psychologist in her Knox County hometown of Mount Vernon as her “dream job.” So it was with great pride that, just earlier this year, Quinn announced to family, friends and colleagues that she had been hired as the school psychologist for Mount Vernon City Schools for the 2018-19 school year.

Quinn was a regular attendee at OSPA conferences. She was also a regular attendee and presenter at the annual conference and convention of the National Association of School Psychologists. Quinn was a prolific researcher with a wide variety of work that supported research-to-practice initiatives in multiple contexts. Quinn served as a Graduate Research Assistant for The Research Center for Educational Technology at Kent State University. She also served as Co-Editor, Reviewer, and Manager of The Research Center for Educational Technology Journal. Her doctoral dissertation, titled “A Modified Psychoeducationally-based Teacher Training Program to Address Bullying among Students with Disabilities,” was successfully defended earlier this year (with her graduation and degree conferral occurring shortly afterward). In addition, Quinn co-authored a peer-reviewed study for the journal Advances in Mental Health Promotion. Her study, titled “Utility of a self-monitoring technique in reducing off-task behavior,” was also a featured article in The Ohio School Psychologist.

Quinn had recently been appointed to the Board of New Directions, a local agency in Mount Vernon with a stated mission of providing resources for the safety, healing and freedom of individuals who have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault and offering preventive education to create an informed and supportive community.

Quinn was a “take charge” individual who preferred to run her life rather than to allow her life to run her. From a young age, it was clear to those who knew her best that Quinn preferred to live life in the driver’s seat. Balanced with her outsized leadership capacity, Quinn was unfailingly kind, thoughtful, generous, and supportive to innumerable professional colleagues, community partners, neighbors, friends and family. It’s not unusual for special leaders to shine and to cast a glow about them. It is rare, though, for those leaders to tirelessly devote themselves to finding ways that help others shine, too. It is rarer still for such leadership qualities to emanate from someone at the outset of her professional career.

In a remarkably short amount of time, Quinn established a reputation for being a highly capable practitioner, a prolific researcher, champion for the students she served, and a trusted advisor, colleague and dear friend to so many of us. A rising star. A rising star taken way too soon. Quinn suffered a brain aneurysm and passed away on July 18 leaving her family, our profession and our world with a tremendous void. Quinn and her husband, Drew, were expecting their first child, a baby girl, Blair Abigale Emerson, who passed away with Quinn at their family home in Gambier, Ohio.

I respectfully ask that you join me now in a moment of silence and reflection for our colleague and friend, Quinn.
We have with us today some very honored guests: Quinn’s husband, Drew, Quinn’s parents, John and Debra Denzer, and Quinn’s sister, Caroline Denzer. To each of you, we say that we are profoundly grateful and honored to have you here with us today to recognize the extraordinary person whom you shared with us for these past many years. Thank you, thank you, for sharing your Quinn with all of us.

We are also pleased to welcome two of Quinn’s professors from Kent State University, Dr. Richard Cowan (her dissertation director) and Dr. Karla Anhalt (a member of her dissertation committee). Also here are Dr. Bradd Falkenberg and Mrs. Nichole Wirtzberger, who were Quinn’s primary supervisors in the Akron Public Schools. Also joining us is Mr. John Biltz, the Coordinator of the Child Study Department in the Akron Public Schools. Like countless others, some of us travelled to Mount Vernon on a picture perfect night this past summer to gather and to celebrate the life of our departed colleague and friend. Quinn’s loved ones shared several heartfelt memories and glowing tributes.
Among these was a remembrance offered by her father, John. He noted that he and Quinn shared a love for Tom Petty music, and he recalled a day when he traveled up from Mount Vernon to Kent to take Quinn to a Tom Petty concert. As it turned out, the concert had to be canceled. But John told us that the two of them made the very best of the situation. They got some food, poured some drinks, and stayed up half the night listening to Tom Petty music. Song after song, they talked into the wee hours and simply enjoyed each other’s company. A vivid and beautiful recollection, John shared it in a way that brought each of us there, seeing it in our mind’s eye, and enjoying that moment in time with them.

Quinn’s passing is an incalculable loss for Ohio school psychology, for the educational community in Mount Vernon and Knox County, and for countless present and future Ohio school children. Quinn’s singular contributions to our shared profession were lasting and deep but, sadly, they had only just begun. Our solace is found in the fact that her contributions continue to bloom in her absence, most notably in her research on enhancing bullying prevention and intervention programs through comprehensive teacher training. Plans are being made to share much of this research with our entire membership.

Today, we close with some words offered to us by a fellow who was no school psychologist but, like Quinn, found his own solace in encouraging others as they were learning to fly and running down their dreams. That man, of course, was Tom Petty. And just like Quinn, he never backed down.

Among the lyrics in his extensive catalogue, Mr. Petty offered the following:

You and I will meet again
When we’re least expecting it
Somewhere in some far off place
I will recognize your face
I won’t say goodbye my friend
For you and I will meet again

It is with all of this in mind that the Executive Board of the Ohio School Psychologists Association is very proud to posthumously recognize Dr. Anna Quinn Denzer-Emerson with the OSPA Early Career Award.
Thank you.

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