DEPEW, NY – We are proud to announce the winners of our “Academic Above and Beyond Awards.” These awards honor individuals who have demonstrated exceptional dedication, innovation, and compassion in their roles within our academic community.

Putting Students First Award: This award recognizes individuals who consistently prioritize the well-being, growth, and success of our students above all else. They go the extra mile to ensure that each student feels valued, supported, and empowered to reach their full potential, facilitating supports and student independence.

This year’s winner is described as

  • Putting the students’ needs, well-being, and independence first at all times.
  • Makes sure their lessons are interesting and challenging for each child, and is is considerate of each child’s unique needs.
  • They spend many hours getting his lessons ready to keep his students interests and curiosity engaged.
  • Their plans are well thought out life skills lessons as well as academic lessons that incorporate h student’s interests.
  • They treat each child with the utmost respect as well as gives each child many opportunities to learn about themselves within the classroom and are always ready to assist their student’s families and gives them appropriate materials to assist their child at home.
  • They celebrates each child’s successes in a positive and fun way!!  Their students enjoy being with him!!

Congratulations Nathan Odrobina


Collaborative Spirit Award: This award celebrates individuals who foster a culture of collaboration and teamwork within our academic community. They actively seek out opportunities to work with colleagues to enhance school culture, by building and maintaining positive relationships and creating meaningful communications.

Our winner received several nominations. We felt one in particular nomination best summed up this year’s winner:

“Since my first day as a teacher at Beyond Learning, I have never seen Dayna without a smile. I know she has ‘difficult’ days managing the needs of all her students. Yet, she always manages to greet me with a smile and welcomes me into her room to share any/all materials with me. Her willingness to genuinely help others to learn from her experiences, in order to give our students the best experience possible within their abilities, is a testament to her character. There is no one else that exemplifies a collaborative spirit than Dayna Burke.”

Congratulations:  Dayna Burke


Professional Excellence Award: The Professional Excellence Award honors individuals who exhibit exemplary professionalism, expertise, and dedication in their respective roles. They embrace self- development through education and training.  They serve as role models and/or mentors for their peers, embodying the highest standards of excellence in their work.

This year’s winner is described as:

“our  ” Go To” staff member we can always count on to volunteer, to provide support, to respond to the needs of the students and staff. They are highly respected by both parents and her team. They can be found planning department as well as organizing department luncheons. Both examples demonstrate their respect for expanding one’s professionalism and team building.  They are not only respected within our department, but also the interdisciplinary team, department heads and principals. Families and teachers have also come to recognize their outstanding talents and will frequently request that they continue to provide services to their child/students. They are an essential member of this department and school at large. They mentors graduate students from both the University of Buffalo and Fredonia and year after year has been invited to participate in the Externship program

Congratulations: Amy Meslinsky


Creativity in Instruction Award: This award recognizes educators who demonstrate exceptional creativity, innovation, and effectiveness in their instructional practices. Whether in a classroom or therapy session they often think “out of the box”, continuously seeking out new and engaging ways to inspire and motivate students, making learning a dynamic and enriching experience.

The winner of this award received several nominations for this award:

This winner constantly comes up with imaginative, fun, interactive, and educational activities to best meet their students’ needs and help them learn/ acquire new skills. Their ingenuity combines multiple skills necessary for their students’ success in the classroom into one fun, engaging activity, and inspires others to get more creative with my own treatment plans.

Congratulations: Gwendalyn Neuman


Health & Safety Champion Award: The Health & Safety Champion Award acknowledges individuals who demonstrate unwavering commitment to the health, safety, and well-being of our students, staff, and community. They work to ensure a safe and nurturing environment for all by all identifying safety and health issues. They go above and beyond to implement proactive approaches to behavioral supports and ensure proper student protocols are used.

This year’s winner takes interest in every person’s wellbeing, health, safety. They are always positive, very caring. They always goes above, beyond their job description to ensure the health, safety of our students and staff. They have the kindest heart, very experienced in our field. They are such a wonderful role model for staff, and nurses. If they are made aware of a problem with any student, or staff, they will immediately go to work on how to solve their issues. They always helps out other departments with whatever they need promptly. They are an amazing asset to our school.

Congratulations: Mary Ann Harhi-Gettman


Family Connection Champion Award: The Family Connection Champion Award celebrates individuals who forge strong partnerships between the school and families. They recognize the vital role that families play in students’ success and work tirelessly to engage and support families in their children’s education. They exercise empathy and compassion in their communications

This winner received several nominations across many categories.

This year’s winner establishes connections with the families of her students at the beginning of the year by having them fill out a questionnaire. They then shares these with the “team” including all the therapists and special area teachers that work with that student, so we get to know more about the student too. Parents send her pictures, videos and tell her all about their weekends and vacations. She is also always updated on any medical situations that are going on.

Congratulations: Colleen Christman


Sunshine Award: This award honors individuals who radiate positivity, warmth, and optimism in all that they do. They uplift and inspire those around them, fostering a supportive and inclusive atmosphere within our academic community. In the face of adversity or difficult circumstances they maintain a positive attitude.

We’d like to recognize several “rays of sunshine”.


This first winner is describes as “she comes in everyday with an excited and happy attitude to begin the day with her children. She goes out of her way to do fun and engaging activities with the children and families. She takes the time each day to spend a special moment with each child and share these experiences with each parent at pick up.”

Congratulations: Kelly Rybat

This next winner’s nomination states “she is such a sweet and calm presence in her classroom.  She is always willing to assist and learn new things.  She is the first person to smile at someone in the hallway, has kind words to say for everyone, and has such a positive demeanor with the students in her classroom.  She does not complain or show fatigue, despite some challenging days.  We appreciate you!

Congratulations: Maddison Addesa

The next winner’s nomination states “I have had the pleasure of sitting in on some classes, and he has shown nothing but kindness, positivity, and compassion towards his students. No matter the students’ age or skill level, he encourages exploration of music instruments, provides praise for all efforts, and incorporates interactive materials to supplement his lessons. His love of music and passion to teach others about music are evident and admirable. Thank you for all you do, Jimmy!

Congratulations: James Philippy

The next winner’s received several nominations among several categories.  Their nomination states “She is genuine. She is sunshine personified! She has the best outlook on life. She believes every day is a gift and should be enjoyed to the fullest. And she takes her students along for this ride. They, and her staff, can’t help but get swept into her sunshine! She is contagious”.

Congratulations: Jennifer Rockenstein

This winner is described as a therapist with the beaming smile that is positively excited to come to work each and every day. She establishes a special relationship with each of her students, their families and our staff. Her professional and interpersonal skills are exceptional. Marissa makes each day count in a happy, fun and extraordinary way. Her approach to each day has proven to aide in her student’s success. They are thriving as they laugh, engage and learn by her happy and kind example. She inspires and motivates others around her and is a valued member of the team.

Congratulations: Marissa Tomaczak