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NCLD’s Presents 2016 Bill Ellis Award to Claudia Koochek

Written by Dr. Sheldon Horowitz | November 7, 2016

NCLD is proud to announce Claudia Koochek as the winner of the 2016 Bill Ellis Award. The award was presented last month at the 67th annual conference of the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), held in Orlando, FL.

Before presenting the award, Dr. Sheldon Horowitz, senior director of learning resources and research, made these remarks at the award ceremony:

It’s a pleasure to recognize the friendship between IDA and NCLD, and to remember an individual whose legacy has made each of our organizations better, smarter, stronger.

Bill Ellis served as the president of the Orton Society from 1980-1983, and as the director of professional services at the National Center for Learning Disabilities from 1991-1995. His untimely passing was a loss for us all. Since 1996, it has been my privilege to fill that directorship at NCLD.

If Bill were with us today, he would be so proud.

Hed be proud of NCLD, its leadership in public policy and advocacy, and its collaboration with the IDA and dozens of organizations whose efforts touch the lives of children, adolescents and adults with learning and attention issues. Hed be proud of NCLDs role in managing and operating understood.org, a field-changing partnership among 15 organizations that reaches almost 2 million unique viewers each month and, since its inception 2 years ago, has connected more than 21 million parents and educators with just-in-time information, access to experts, and a safe online community. And hed be proud of NCLDs commitment to evidence-based decision making to benefit all students, raising the bar for accountability and holding true to its vision of a society in which every individual possesses the academic, social and emotional skills needed to succeed in school, at work and in life.

Bill would be enormously proud of the IDA, and its unyielding commitment to removing barriers to language acquisition and to preparing and supporting educators in the use of effective teaching practices. Hed be proud of IDAs focus on clinical intervention strategies related to dyslexia and other disorders and in its commitment to providing clarity and leadership in how best to engage reading specialists in the incredibly hard work of personalizing instruction and support for every child who struggles. And hed be proud of IDAs success at engaging researchers and providing a platform for researchers and practitioners to conduct, aggregate and share critical knowledge about brain-based disorders and emerging neuroscientific perspectives that impact our understanding of teaching and learning.

But thats not all. He would be proud… so proud… of this years Bill Ellis Award winner.

As a teenager in El Salvador, our Claudia saw a television commercial about the Special Olympics and immediately became a volunteer for the organization. After graduating high school, she served as an assistant teacher at a school for students with multiple handicaps. After moving to the United States, she volunteered, as a 21 year old, at the Charles Armstrong School in Belmont, CA. And the rest is history.

Claudia surrounded herself with mentors who recognized her spark, encouraged her to follow her passion as a school leader, and challenged her to trust her intuition about what makes good schools great and what helps kids to realize their potential. Todays Bill Ellis Award winner ignites the kind of optimism and enthusiasm that is too often lacking in shaping school improvement, and has shown, both at the Charles Armstrong School and now at the Westmark School in Encino, CA, that personalized learning, assistive and instructional technologies, and experiential and service learning are all essential components of the “magic sauce” that drives student success.

Anyone who knows Claudia would agree that she is an extraordinary listener, heeding and legitimizing the voices of her colleagues, welcoming parents and other care providers in planning and problem solving, and including the voices of students themselves as they are coached and encouraged to be agents of change and architects of their journey to adulthood.

On behalf of NCLD, we’d once again like to extend our warmest congratulations to Claudia Koochek and Westmark School!

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