Four outstanding educators who have dedicated their professional careers to Huntington UFSD children are this year’s Special Education PTA Distinguished Service Award recipients.
Kate Carey, Jennifer Stucchio, Shelley Stockner and Sue Reh Riley were all honored for their exceptional commitment to the students they work with and the district at-large. The group would have be recognized at SEPTA’s festive luncheon slated for this month, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the event from being held.
Conference calls were arranged with the honorees, SEPTA officials and District Director of Special Education & Student Support Services Diana Rich to inform members of the group of their respective award “and they were very excited,” said SEPTA co-President Denise Murtagh.
“We are having lawn signs made, as well as plaques and will work with Diana Rich to distribute them to the four award recipients as soon as they are ready,” SEPTA co-President Rene Babich said.
Huntington SEPTA established the Distinguished Service Award to honor those who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to help students with special needs reach their full potential.
SEPTA actively solicits nominations for the awards and after they are received, a multi-member committee reviews essays and other materials that document how the individuals facilitate inclusion, interact with students, make a difference in the youngsters’ lives and share their special qualities with parents and other staff members.
Kate Carey has been on Huntington UFSD’s faculty for 27 years. She is currently a speech-language therapist at J. Taylor Finley Middle School.
“Kate has always had such a wonderful way about her with her students,” said Mary DiBenedetto, a longtime Finley school psychologist. “I see her standing by her door welcoming each child with a huge smile, saying hi to them when they walk by in the hallway and always making each child feel very special when they enter the room. I can see by the student’s reactions that this makes their day.”
Ms. Carey has been described as creative and innovative and as a “tremendous advocate for the students she works with at Finley. The faculty veteran went above and beyond to meet the needs of her students during the distance learning program necessity by the ongoing pandemic.
“Kate’s professionalism has no boundaries; it does not end with a conference or a meeting nor with the end of a speech/language session,” Dr. DiBenedetto said. “Her support is fluid and is seen in all environments and with anyone who works with her students.”
Special education teacher Jennifer Stucchio is known to set high expectations for her students and then work very hard to help them realize success. “She is the most devoted teacher I have ever worked with,” faculty colleague Susan Danzig said. “She continues to educate herself to learn new strategies and quickly applies them. She is always willing to try new things, all in the name of the students. The way in which she treats the students makes them strive for success.”
Ms. Stucchio went into overdrive to help the students she works with during online learning, working harder than ever to make sure they continue making progress.
“Jen is an exceptional teacher and co-teacher,” said Cindy Palmirotto, a longtime Huntington teacher. “She is the most efficient person I have ever co-taught with. Jen loves what she does and she does it so well. Working with her was a dream because of her adaptability, competence, caring and ability to see the good in everyone.”
Ms. Stucchio has been co-teaching a fifth grade class with Tracey McManus at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School this year. “She has a gift with her ability to predict just what each of her students need, whether it be academic, emotional or physical support,” Ms. McManus said. “She has wonderful and creative ideas about how to reach each student and make them feel successful and like they belong. The children all love and care for her and are always willing to work just a little bit harder when she is in the room.”
Closing out her 30th year as a Huntington UFSD speech-language pathologist, Shelley Stockner’s enthusiasm and dedication to her Southdown Primary School students is stronger than ever.
“She treats each and every student with kindness and compassion,” states her official award nomination. “She works tirelessly to meet their language needs as well as to connect with them personally. She spends time discovering what their interests and motivators are.”
Ms. Stockner has a passion for developing more knowledge about her field and researching new or alternative strategies. “She is revered by her colleagues as an expert in her field and is often fondly referred to as the ‘President of the Speech Department,’” states the nomination.
“She has been an invaluable asset to the teachers, parents and students who have worked with her throughout her career,” according to the award nomination.
Sue Reh Riley
Washington Primary School teacher assistant Sue Reh Riley gives the district everything she has every day. She pulls out all the stops while striving to help students reach their fullest potential.
“Mrs. Riley is always in tune with what’s going on in our classroom environment and meets student needs from one activity to the next,” said Kerry Winberry, a Washington special education teacher. “She is always two steps ahead and fully engrossed with the students at the same time. Yes, it is possible for Mrs. Riley.”
A dynamic educator, Mrs. Riley is on top of her game on any given school day. “She always has the interests of the students in mind and modifies activities as well as makes adaptions to ensure that students will have fun and be successful when engaging in whole group activities,” Ms. Winberry said.
A valued member of Washington’s staff, Mrs. Riley regularly makes a difference in the lives of students. “She loves what she does and is there for the kids,” Ms. Winberry said. “She is a leader for both students and classroom staff. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to know or work with Mrs. Riley would know the relationships she has developed with students and the high expectations she fosters have impacted us all.”