Slesaransky-Poe Thanks Alum and Parent Who Nominated Her for Inclusion Award

By Purnell T. Cropper | February 8, 2011

“I feel so deeply honored to be the 2011 recipient of the Patricia J. Creegan Award for Excellence in Inclusive Education for so many reasons,” said Dr. Graciela Slesaransky-Poe, Associate Professor and Coordinator of Special Education, as she received the Patricia J. Creegan Award for Excellence in Inclusive Education at the Pennsylvania’s Education for All Coalition (PEAC) annual meeting on Feb. 5. The award recognizes her “outstanding commitment and performance in inclusive education.

“First and foremost,” said Slesaransky-Poe, “because this recognition holds the name, and it is in memory and honor of my dear friend and colleague, Trish Creegan, an amazing person, unwavering advocate, and a wonderful friend, who I miss very much.

“And second, because my nomination came collectively from two individuals who represent two different constituencies that some are led to believe that they don’t see eye to eye. Note that I am saying ‘not the individuals but the constituencies they represent do not always see eye to eye!’ Gail Katch—coincidentally, an Arcadia alum and outstanding Technical Assistant Consultant at the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit. And Colleen Tomko. Who doesn’t know Colleen? A nationally known parent, tireless advocate, and fearless fighter when it comes to the rights, education, and quality of life of people with disabilities.

“So, for me,” Slesaransky-Poe said, “to see that my passion and dedication to inclusive education is valued by both families and professional educators brings me great pleasure and a lot of hope. It shows that there is so much that we can accomplish when we all work together.

“Colleen, Gail, and I have been involved in a three-year inclusive program called Arcadia Annual Inclusion Institute. Together, with Jeannine Brinkley, from the Bureau of Special Education of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, along with so many other wonderful IU and King of Prussia PaTTAN consultants, as well as with Drs. Kathy Wirth and Ellen Skilton-Sylvester at Arcadia University, we have been part of such an amazing and collaborative initiative to support schools and school districts in bringing about the needed change to improve the quality and quantity of services and supports to include students with disabilities in their schools and classrooms.

“Everyone involved at Arcadia Annual Inclusion Institutes, just like everyone involved at the Pennsylvania Education for All Coalition, understands the value and strength that comes from collaborating, problem-solving, and reflecting with family members, educators, local and state administrators, and university professors, to ensure that all students—and I mean ALL students—receive quality education and are seen as valued and respected members of their school communities.

“Here in Pennsylvania, we have gone a long way,” Slesaransky-Poe said. “If we look back at what we have accomplished we should feel very proud. But there are still so much that needs to be done. There are still so many unopened doors that need to be unlocked. There are still so many students with disabilities who are denied their right to be educated–let alone to be educated with their non-disabled peers and to have a access to a rigorous and meaningful education.

“In addition, as Trish and I used to discuss often, our advocacy work should continue to widen the circle of inclusion. We must continue to work together so that all students, regardless of their disabilities, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, gender, family composition, gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation wake up every morning and look forward to going to a safe, welcoming, embracing, and affirming school.

“That is our next challenge. It is about bringing social justice for all. And I have no doubt that together—and only together, we can accomplish that goal.”

Slesaransky-Poe thanked Katch and Tomko for having nominated her for this award, and Dr. Kim Dean and Arcadia students for attending the celebration.

“And very special thanks to my family, who is also present here today,” she said. “Your are the loves of my life: my husband, Phil, and my children, Vanessa and Adrian. I absolutely know that I wouldn’t have been able to receive this award today without your unconditional support. I am so extremely fortunate and grateful for your understanding and your patience. For sometimes, the dedication to my work and advocacy takes my time and energy away from you. Thank you so very much.”