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2018 Lara Jane Parker 

Award recipients

Lara Jane Parker Award for Excellence

Excellence - Amy Brande is a K-2 Adapted Curriculum Teacher at Northside Elementary in Chapel Hill/Carrboro City Schools.  She received her Bachelor of Science in Special Education from East Carolina University.   Amy is a talented teacher who applies evidence-based practice to her classroom instruction.  She pursues additional training, usually on her own time, and shares what she learns with colleagues.  Amy also meets with parents and other professionals outside of school to ensure consistency for her students across different environments.  Amy was nominated by her colleague Rena Dadolf with supporting letters from 2017 Lara Jane Parker award recipient Kara VanHooser and one of her student’s parents. 

Excellence – Caryn Ellis is an occupational therapist with Orange County Schools.  She received her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy from UNC-Chapel Hill.  Caryn exceeds all expectations when it comes to dedication and commitment to the success of each student.  She invests herself professionally and emotionally in her students.  She shares their joys, encourages them through their struggles, celebrates their victories, motivates them through difficult times, and always believes in them.  Caryn also leads the district’s AAC/AT team, promoting its importance with every professional, parent and student with whom she works.  Caryn was nominated by 2017 Lara Jane Parker award recipient Angie Waitt and Connie Crimmins, Director of Exceptional Children Services of Orange County Schools.

Excellence – Michelle Hill is a special education teacher at Hilburn Academy in Wake County Public School System.  She received her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Communications/Journalism from St. Fisher College and her Teaching License, K-12 Mentally Disabled from East Carolina University.  She has worked over two decades with children and adults with disabilities and/or chronic mental illness in a variety of settings.  Michelle has developed as a teacher into an educator that encourages her students to communicate no matter their system or disabilities.  She also serves on the School Improvement Committee and the Special Education Advisory Council.   Michelle was nominated by 2013 Lara Jane Parker award recipient Amanda Hummel and Suzanne Tomalski with letters of support from colleague Kathryn Burke and a grateful grandparent. 

Lara Jane Parker/Talbot L. Black Award for advocacy

Advocacy – Patricia A. Byers is the assistive technology lead in Alamance/Burlington School System.  She received her Masters of Science in Speech Pathology from Pennsylvania State University.  Patricia’s career is centered on meeting the needs of the low-incidence population, especially the students with no voice. She also is recognized as a mentor to other speech language pathologists in her county and throughout the State sharing both her knowledge and passion for her students to communicate and succeed in the classroom, home, and community.  Patricia was nominated by Carolyn Phillips, speech language pathologist, and Kimberly Massey, occupational therapist; both from Alamance/Burlington School System.

Advocacy – Jo-Anna Clark is a speech language pathologist with the Assistive Technology Program in Durham Public Schools.  Jo-Anna’s career has included working at Murdoch Center, Headstart in Durham, Durham Public Schools, Alamance/Burlington Schools and then back to Durham Public Schools.  Jo-Anna received her Masters of Science in Speech Language Pathology from East Carolina University.  She was an early adopter of the concept of augmentative communication even before there were high tech devices.  She has always considered herself as much a teacher as a speech therapist and loves working with classroom teachers to provide lessons that involve AAC.  Jo-Anna was nominated by assistive technology lead, Tonja Recktenwald, with a letter of support from her colleague Alisha Harron.

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