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DISES Awards

The DISES Awards give us a unique opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of our colleagues. Through these awards, we recognize the special educators who have advanced the field and the quality of special education service as well as those members whose contributions have moved the DISES forward in significant ways.

DISES Distinguished International Teacher Award

Recognizes a professional who has made a significant educational impact as an International Educator.

Dr. Deborah Ziegler DISES Distinguished International Leadership Award

DISES members whose visionary international leadership, advocacy, and professional service exemplifies the DISES mission.

Past Awardees


Cheryl Burke: The DISES Special Award: Making an Educational Impact During a Time of Crisis


Ms. Burke's work with schools and families of students with disabilities in Nicaragua has been voluntary and self-funded since its start in 2010. Cheryl has continued her support during the pandemic through virtual professional development workshops and weekly virtual meetings with a Nicaraguan English teacher, to support the continued provision of special education services to her students. In addition, Cheryl works through FNE International to support teachers in Peru who work with students with disabilities, and she works as an educational consultant on a FNE project focused on providing a facility for medically fragile children. This work is also voluntary. The committee was moved by Ms. Burke's dedication and continued efforts to improve the lives of children with disabilities, their families, and their teachers in these under-resourced areas.


DISES congratulates Cheryl, and thanks her for making a difference! 


Drs. Mansur Choudry and Margarita Perez Cañadas


DISES presented special awards to for making a difference during the pandemic. The awards were given during the CEC L.I.V.E. Convention at the  Social on Friday, March 12, 6:30 pm (ET) following the DISES Business/Membership meeting, 6:00-6:30pm (ET). The awards were based on their contributions during the pandemic.


Dr. Mansur Choudry, Assistant Professor, University of Central Oklahoma and Special Care Inc., and Director of the Autism Clinic. Dr. Choudry is conversant in English, Urdu, Hindi, Arabic, German, Punjabi and Sindhi.  He is honored specifically for setting up ABA based intervention programs as Special Care in Pakistan, Bangladesh,  UAE and Saudi Arabia, and training trainers in USA, Pakistan, Portugal, Bulgaria, Bangladesh, UAE and Saudi Arabia. Through his work he has been able to ensure continued operation of Autism clinics in Pakistan.


Dr. Margarita Perez Cañadas, Professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Direct of the Early Childhood and Early Intervention Service at Catholic University of Valencia in Spain, and an Ambassador to Division of Early Childhood (DEC) for dissemination of DEC Recommended Practices. Dr. Canadas has worked to translate and disseminate DEC recommended practices for use throughout Spain, Central and South America. She has conducted research on their use and works to improve practices for young children and their families. She continues to support implementation of these practices in fifteen countries.



Elizabeth Zagata


Elizabeth Zagata is a student at the University of Connecticut, where she conducted a research project that she conceived, planned, and executed, including obtaining IRB approval. The study was reviewed by survey design experts to ensure its quality. Elizabeth has presented this research at the OSEP Project Directors Conference and the Education Law Association conference. Representatives from the Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE) expressed interest in publishing the findings as a white paper after attending her presentation at the OSEP Conference, leading to the attached manuscript.


Katherine Brendli


Katherine Brendli is a doctoral candidate in Special Education and Disability Policy at Virginia Commonwealth University expected to complete her work in May 2020 with a Dissertation on the Effects of a self-advocacy intervention on the ability of college students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to request academic accommodations.


Katherine presently serves as a Research Assistant within her department where she is the lead member of the Teacher Retention and Transition Lab involving her in grant work, administration, curriculum development, research, and much more. She is active in her scholarly work to include writing and presentations and is the co-founder of the soon to be Cross-cultural Student Association in partnership with the Asian-American Education Studies. The goal of the Cross-cultural Student Association is to encourage international and interdisciplinary collaboration between graduate students across cultures and areas of study. Dr. Xu, a professor in the Department of Counseling and Special Education at Virginia Commonwealth writes in her letter of nomination that Katherine has been an outstanding doctoral student from all aspects, and her leadership and service on international collaborations and projects make her an exceptionally strong candidate for this award. As a student leader, special education researcher, and cultural ambassador, Katie has made significant and meaningful contributions to our international projects in China.


Dr. Aseel Alsuhaibani


Dr. Aseel Alsuhaibani, recipient of the DISES Student International Student Research Award, was awarded her Ph.D. from George Mason University in the spring of 2018. Her dissertation research was on converting the ARC’s Self Determination Scale from English to Arabic since no such self-determination assessment instrument is available for use in Arabic speaking countries. This process involved far more than merely language conversion. It was also necessary to adapt or eliminate some assessment items to be more appropriate for children and youth with intellectual, learning and multiple disabilities living in Arabic countries. The adapted version of the scale had to be a validated assessment for use within Arabic cultures. Her research was done in Saudi Arabia with a large group of students using appropriate statistical methods. As a result of Dr. Alsuhaibani’s research, there now is a validated Arabic assessment of self-determination for students with disabilities living in these countries.


Last Updated:  6 April, 2024

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