2017 DISES Distinguished International Leadership Award:

Dr. Eastlyn Mc Kenzie

After teaching for five (5) years at the Hope Anglican Primary School, Dr. Mc Kenzie moved to the Community Development Division as a Community Development Officer and later moved to the position of Education Extension Officer in the Education Division. Further academic achievements include a Post Graduate Diploma in Community Development where she received the Burney Prize for the Best External Student Dissertation in 1977, followed by a Master’s Degree in Education (M.ED.) in 1979 from the University of Manchester, England and a Doctorate in Education (Ed.D) majoring in Human Resource Development from the Washington University in 1987. Dr. Eastlyn Mc Kenzie was appointed an Independent Senator in 1995, a position she continues to hold. To date she is the only Tobagonian to lead in the Independent benches in the Senate, and has represented the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago at conferences in the Turks and Caicos Islands, New Zealand and the Bahamas. Her obvious interest in the Education System afforded her the opportunity to serve on many education committees including Chairman of a Task Force on the reason for the poor performance of students in Tobago and to sit on a specially appointed Task Force on education in Trinidad and Tobago. She was in charge of Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme (YTEPP) of Trinidad & Tobago, initiated the School Leaving Examinations classes in the Tobago prisons, and is currently a member of the executive member of the Tobago Council of Handicapped Children Inc. since its formation in 1974. She is a religious instructor at the Scarborough Secondary School since 1996, motivational speaker at schools and Parents Teachers Associations and manager/tutor of the Homework Centre at St. Patrick’s AC.

2017 DISES Distinguished International Leadership Award:

Dr. David Rodrigues

Dr. David Rodrigues has been in the field of special education for 40+ years. He obtained his Ph.D. in 1987 with research for children with Cerebral Palsy. Presently, he is a retired professor from the University of Lisbon. While at his university he coordinated graduate level programs, as well as held many prestigious university positions. Dr. Rodrigues has supported students through his supervision of several Ph.D. candidates and dozens of Master’s theses. He has taught in various universities to include Portugal, Belgium, and Brazil and has held a post-doctorate at Virginia State University. He has been an invited speaker at numerous international conferences and foreign universities, UNESCO, and Handicap International initiatives, particularly in Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Brazil, the United States, Colombia, Mexico and Cape Verde. He was vice president for Europe of the International Society for Child Studies, and is a member of the Group of Experts on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the Council of Europe. Dr. Rodrigues was the program chair for the 8th Inclusive and Supportive Education Congress 2015 conference on Equity and Inclusion held in Lisbon. Drawing from all over Europe and beyond, this conference allowed participants to continue to explore ideas from DISES 2014 Braga conference, EMBRACING INCLUSIVE APPROACHES FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH WITH SPECIAL NEEDS in which Dr. Rodrigues participated actively, serving as one of our plenary speakers. He is the author of 30 books published in Portugal, Brazil, and Germany, and has published over 100 articles in specialized journals. He belongs to the editorial board of 10 scientific journals of Portugal, Brazil, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom, and is the founder and director of the journal for “Inclusive Education”.

2017 DISES Distinguished International Teacher Award:

Evgenia Dimitrova – Mineva

The 2017 DISES International Distinguished Teacher Award was presented to Evgenia Dimitrova – Mineva.  Evgenia is a long-time teacher in a Montessori kindergarten and is among the pioneers of this educational approach in Bulgaria. Here is what the nominees have said about Evgenia:

“I have known Evgenia since 2008, when my son, then 3 years old, started going in the Kamelini-Montessori kindergarten. She quickly became his favourite adult and role model. She helped him adapt, overcome the trauma of going to a state kindergarten which had led to many negative somatic conditions. She has always been there not just for him, but for all children with various special or additional needs, and from different nationalities. Evgenia employs diverse and very creative ways to support children in their learning and gaining independence. She inspires knowledge and curiosity towards nature, life and others.” 

“We met Evgenia in 2010 when we first invited her to help us with co-facilitation and translation of an international workshop for working with children with special educational needs. From our first meeting, we were impressed with her passion, devotion and sincere urge to understand every child’s personal needs. In her work, she demonstrated profound knowledge of Montessori and other pedagogical theories and practices, which she skillfully combined to find the right approach. Since then we have been working with her on various initiatives and she has truly become part of our team. She brought a unique approach to working with parents, teachers and children. Her ability to patiently investigate the individual needs of every child she has worked with has shown us, time and again, that there is no such thing as a “hopeless case”. Working alongside her has given us great consolation, hope and confidence that no child or family will be left behind.”

2016 DISES Distinguished International Student Award:

Andrew Scheef


scheef head shot high res.jpgAndrew Scheef is a doctoral student in special education at Washington State University. He has demonstrated excellence in academic achievement and a strong potential for contributing to the field of international special education. In 2014, he was awarded a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching to work in Singapore where he spent three months building relationships with the Ministry of Education, local schools, and educators, with the goal of enhancing the lives of young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities through enhanced transition opportunities. While in Singapore, Andrew conducted a qualitative study to better understand strategies for nurturing partnerships between local businesses and employment specialists at local schools. Based on the quality of these international efforts, he took first place in the International Research presentation competition at the 2015 Wiley Research Exposition at Washington State University; he was also named a finalist for the Pat Sitlington Emerging Student Researchers Award of CEC’s Division on Career Development and Transition (DCDT). Andrew is currently working on a second manuscript for publication based on the data collected in Singapore.

2016 DISES Distinguished International Leadership Award:

George William Muliika


George William Mauliika.jpgGeorge William Muliika works tirelessly to improve the lives of learners with disabilities. George has demonstrated significant efforts in organizing and leading a new student group at Kisubi Brothers University in Uganda.This group focuses on serving the needs of learners with disabilities. Their goal is to grow and support local efforts to improve the lives of children living and learning in vulnerable conditions in their country. George has been leading the student group at Kisubi Brothers University since its inception in June 2015. His enthusiasm and dedication to meeting the needs of children with disabilities are evident through his efforts to improve educational conditions for learners and to increase their access to education. He has assembled an impressive group of 22 dedicated teacher preparation students who have collaborated in organizing their group to build awareness of the needs of children and adults with special needs and promote educational opportunities for learners with special needs. These goals align well with the DISES mission and goals in fostering collaborative partnerships and promoting advocacy for human rights.

2015 DISES International Distinguished Leadership Award:

Dr. Evelyn Reed and Dr. Frances Smith



Dr. Evelyn Reed and Dr. Frances Smith have been selected as the co-recipients of the 2015 DISES International Distinguished Leadership Award for their international work to improve the lives of learners with disabilities. Drs. Reed and Smith have demonstrated distinguished international recognition for their contribution to the field of special education, especially teacher preparation in special education.

With their Jamaican colleagues Mrs. Angelita Arnold and Mrs. Salomie Evering from Mico University College, Drs. Reed and Smith developed a plan for supporting the professional growth of Jamaican teachers, clinicians, and faculty who work to address the diverse learning needs of Jamaican students, with and without identified disabilities. Along with doctoral students at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Drs. Reed and Smith developed an online learning space as the Global Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Virtual Classroom, populating it with curated resources and learning modules related to UDL, and encouraging active participation through module prompts and blog-based discussion. Through these collaborations, they strived to establish a working relationship that places the needs, interests, and values of the Jamaican educators and their students first. By using a “train the trainer” model with open access for trainers to all training materials and curated resources on the Virtual Classroom site, they have enabled a sustainable learning platform for Jamaican leadership to continue to develop into the future. These collaborations have led to continued interest of Jamaican educators’ pursuit of UDL learning. Mico University leadership is pursuing a collaborative relationship with the School of Education at VCU in the field of early childhood special education.

To support their continued interests in international work supporting the success of diverse learners, both Dr. Reed and Dr. Smith earned appointments as Fulbright Specialists. In these roles, they will have opportunities to partner with professionals from institutions world wide on educational issues related to promoting positive learning outcomes for all students.

Based on these accomplishments and their collaborative partnership, the Division of International Special Education Services is pleased to award our 2015 Distinguished Leadership Award to Dr. Evelyn Reed and Dr. Frances Smith.



2015 DISES International Student Award:

Dr. Brenda Barrio


Brenda BarrioDr. Brenda Barrio, a native of Mexico, has been actively involved in addressing special education issues related to working with culturally and linguistically diverse students with disabilities, with a special emphasis on teacher preparation and culturally responsive teaching. Dr. Barrio earned her Ph.D. in August 2013 from the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas with a major in special education-mild to moderate disabilities and a minor in bilingual ESL education. The title of Dr. Barrio’s dissertation was “Exploring general education preservice teachers’ levels of concern regarding the implementation of response to intervention.” The manuscript based on her dissertation recently was published in Teacher Education and Special Education, the journal of the Teacher Education Division of CEC.

Dr. Barrio’s service in working with culturally and linguistically diverse population was evident through several recognitions. In 2010, Dr. Barrio was nominated for the International Student of the Year at University of North Texas. She was the recipient for the Multicultural Scholastic Award from 2007 to 2013. In 2015, Dr. Barrio was nominated for the CEC’s Division for Learning Disabilities Outstanding Doctoral Level Research Award.

Based on these accomplishments during her graduate study, the Division of International Special Education Services is pleased to award our 2015 Distinguished International Student Award to Dr. Brenda Barrio.


 Ms. Swaleha (Sally) Mohamedali

Ms. Swaleha (Sally) MohamedaliMs. Swaleha (Sally) Mohamedali is a teacher for Jaffery Academy in Arusha, Tanzania. Ms. Mohamedali, a member of DISES and IASE, is a special educator who specializes in Early Childhood Development, Learning Disabilities (LD), intellectual disabilities, focusing on vocational skills for students with disabilities. After her studies in Botswana, East Africa, in the United Kingdom, and the Rochville University in Florida, Swaleha joined Jaffery Academy in 2005 and set up a Special Needs Department and Resource Center within the mainstream school addressing the needs of students with LD disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and autistic spectrum disorders.

In 2006, she introduced inclusive educational practices into her area. She holds a number of consultancies and conducts workshops for the Mountain Merou University students and the City Council elementary teachers.

 2013 DISES International Distinguished Leadership Award:

Dr. Clayton Edward Keller

Dr. Clayton Keller, who was nominated by Dr. Katie Bonawitz, has been in the field for more than 35 years as a special education teacher, special education workforce specialist, and a special education professor for sixteen years; the last three years at Qatar University. Dr. Keller is a past president of DISES (2005-2007) and currently Associate Professor of special education and Coordinator of Master of Education in Special Education at Qatar University. Below we list some of his accomplishments: He has helped build a strong special education program in Qatar in order to effectively prepare the next generation of special education leaders in Qatar. He has also served several overseas universities like the University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana, the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey, and Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway. He has led many international research and professional development projects. He is actually an active and prolific researcher in the area of international special education program and services. He has demonstrated his belief in new researchers who begin to explore the international field of special education. Specifically, he has generously assisted many individuals to get networked with other individuals across the world.

2013 DISES International Distinguished Leadership Award:

Dr. Sami Basha

Dr. Sami BashaDr. Sami Basha from Palestine Ahliva University was nominated by Tom Gumpel. It is noteworthy that this nomination has had something special. Both they work at the same region of Middle East: Sami at the Ahliva University in Palestine, Tom at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This fact speaks for itself for both of them. Dr. Basha is President Assistant for Planning and Development at Palestine Ahliva University at Bethlehem. He is also Director of the special education program and director of Special Education Center at the same university. Below we list some of his accomplishments:
– He is the premier expert on autism in Palestine. He works tirelessly in promoting evidence-based practices serving children with autism and their families.
– He has developed a screening and diagnostic test in Arabic for children with autistic spectrum disorders (The Basha Autism Spectrum Test).
– He has worked closely with all major Palestinian university and was involved in many governmental and non-governmental agencies both as consultant and as a program leader. Specifically, he has worked with UNESCO, UNICEF, and UNDP.