Distinguished Alumni Awards
The Pitt School of Education's annual Distinguished Alumni Awards honor our outstanding alumni and students who are doing transformative work in the field of education.
All alumni, students, faculty, and staff are invited to attend the Alumni Awards ceremony. There will be a welcome address by Dean Kinloch and brief remarks by the award winners.
Our award categories include:
- Distinguished Alumni Award
- Distinguished Early Career Award
- Distinguished PreK-12 Educator Award
- Distinguished Academic Departmental Awards
- Distinguished Student Leadership Award
- Outstanding Alumni Dissertation Award
Meet the 2022 Alumni Award Recipients
Distinguished Alumni Award
- Marilyn Hoyson, PhD
With more than 40 years of experience in the special education field, Marilyn Hoyson is the chief operating officer at the Watson Institute in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. Before joining the Watson Institute in 1995, she worked at several intermediate units focused on educating children with special needs including autism spectrum disorder and severe physical and cognitive disabilities. In 1981, Hoyson helped develop LEAP Preschool to provide early intervention services to preschool children with autism spectrum disorder who learned alongside their typically developing peers in the same classroom setting. LEAP was replicated in many areas throughout the country, and in 1995, Hoyson introduced the program into the Watson Institute’s continuum of services. Since then, the Watson Institute has added and expanded programs, positioning itself into a highly regarded organization that evolves to help children with special needs reach their full potential. Hoyson earned her PhD and MEd in special education at the University of Pittsburgh and earned her BS in special education at California University of Pennsylvania.
- David A. Squires, PhD
The late David A. Squires (1947 - 2021) dedicated his 45-year career in education to working with low-resource schools in urban and rural settings across the United States. He began in 1969 as a high school English teacher in Cleveland, Ohio and later worked at the University of Pittsburgh Learning Research and Development Center while completing his PhD from Pitt. After finishing his degree, he worked for Research for Better Schools in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and wrote his book, "Effective schools and classrooms: A research-based perspective," which was one of the first to propose a research-based model for effective education environments in K-12 schools. While an assistant superintendent and curriculum director for K-8 public schools in Red Bank, New Jersey, Squires developed the Balanced Curriculum© approach to improving student achievement on standardized tests. He merged the approach with the Comer School Development Project at Yale University and later created one of the first web-based products to align curriculum to educational standards and track in-classroom implementation. He concluded his career as a tenured professor at Southern Connecticut State University. Squires presented his work widely and published multiple books and articles, which are still taught in teacher preparation programs across the country.
Distinguished Early Career Award
- Adan J. Alvarez, PhD
Adan “Adam” Alvarez is an assistant professor of urban education at Rowan University. Prior to working in higher education, Alvarez was an elementary teacher for six years at a residential treatment facility where he served youth from diverse racial, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds who had experienced trauma. In his work, he uses various race-based, analytic frameworks and diverse methodological approaches to study how race and racism shape the social context of education across various settings. Alvarez’s work has been featured in journals such as Equity and Excellence in Education, Teaching Education, and Review of Educational Research. He is the 2021 recipient of the American Educational Research Association’s Review of Research Award for his influential work on the intersection of race and trauma. He holds a BA in psychology from Huston-Tillotson University, a MEd in educational leadership and policy from the University of Texas at Austin, and a PhD in social and comparative analysis in education with a focus on urban education from the University of Pittsburgh.
- Kalani M. Palmer, PhD
As an associate professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s (IUP) Professional Studies in Education department, Kalani M. Palmer studies marginalized groups and cultural influences on development. She is an applied researcher and evaluator with experience in clinical settings, classroom settings, and nonprofit youth- and family-serving organizations. She is the project director for Child Care Access Means Parents in School, a federally funded program at IUP that supports student-parent enrollment, retention, persistence, and graduation. Since joining IUP in 2014, Palmer has taught courses on development, learning, family, leadership, and professional practice. In 2021, she received the Region 2 Faculty Advisor – Excellence in Advising Award from NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. In addition to holding a BA in art/art education from Carlow University, she holds an MS in applied developmental psychology and a PhD in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.
Distinguished PreK-12 Educator Award
- Kenda L. Hammer, MEd
Kenda L. Hammer has an extensive career in early childhood education and community-based initiatives. She served as a kindergarten teacher-researcher in the Fox Chapel Area School District from 1977-2003, where she also spent 13 years leading the full-day kindergarten program development and evaluation. In 2003, Hammer founded the district’s Family Literacy Center in an underserved community storefront. There, she convened early learning consortium forums, which focused on child development principles and authentic evaluations to reflect social and emotional learning, equity, cultural relevance, and more. In 2009, Hammer became an adjunct professor of early childhood education at Pitt Education. In addition, she coached collaborative team building among Duquesne City School District faculty and chaired the Board of Directors for the non-profit women’s choral group, Belle Voci. Hammer holds a BS in child care development and early childhood education and an MEd in elementary education from the University of Pittsburgh.
Departmental Award - Educational Foundations, Organizations, and Policy
- Barbara S. Stengel, PhD
Barbara S. Stengel is a semi-retired philosopher of education and an educator of educators who spent her career at Millersville University and Vanderbilt University by working to bridge theory and practice in education. Her efforts supported innovative pedagogies in teacher education, including paid residencies for post-baccalaureate teacher candidates, pedagogy seminars anchored in arts and science courses, and live-actor video simulations about diversity and inclusion. Stengel is the author of three books: Just Education: The Right to Education in Context and Conversation; Moral Matters: Five Ways to Develop the Moral Life of Schools; and Toward Anti-Oppressive Teaching: Designing and Using Simulated Encounters. Additionally, she is former executive director and president of the Philosophy of Education Society and is president-elect of the John Dewey Society. Stengel developed a podcast “Chasing Bailey,” about a middle school in Nashville, Tennessee, that prioritized the care of teachers, only to be closed by the district. Stengel earned her MEd, MA, and PhD from the University of Pittsburgh.
Departmental Award - Health and Human Development
- Lynn Dale Housner, PhD
After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, Lynn Housner worked at the University of Texas at Austin, New Mexico State University, and West Virginia University in roles as a professor of teacher education and an associate dean for nearly 20 years. In addition, Housner was president of both the New Mexico and West Virginia Associations of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, and served as the national association’s Curriculum & Instruction Academy Chair. He has conducted more than 45 workshops for teachers and teacher educators, including several for educators in China. Housner’s research focused on the role of visual imagery on the acquisition of motor skills, and he applied the “analysis of expertise” to the study of teaching and coaching. The recipient of multiple national awards, he was inducted into the American Academy of Kinesiology, an honorary society for those who have made significant contributions to the field. He retired in 2013 when an illness placed him in a wheelchair, but he has continued to stay engaged by writing a memoir, “Weathering Life’s Storms: My Life in a Wheelchair,” and co-authoring a series of papers on integrating socialization into academic, advanced, and doctoral programs.
Departmental Award - Teaching, Learning, and Leading
- Davonia D. Bryant, MAT
Davonia D. Bryant, who has served as an assistant principal within several school systems in Maryland, credits her University of Pittsburgh education (and Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, roots) for preparing her to become “unshakeable, unbreakable, and fearless in her advocacy for children.” Prior to working in administration, she was an English teacher, Advancement Via Individual Determination coordinator, English language learner liaison, and instructional coach. In 2019, she was nominated for the Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals’ Assistant Principal of the Year Award. As an assistant principal in Prince George’s County Public Schools, she has led efforts to implement an International Network Academy to support English language learners, a Ninth Grade Academy focused on “holistic student engagement,” and a progressive discipline model centered around the use of mindfulness and restorative practices. Bryant earned her Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Pittsburgh and is enrolled in the Doctor of Education program at Point Park University.
Student Leadership Award
- Sendi Judith Estrada
Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and raised in Kansas and Colorado, Sendi J. Estrada attended Colorado College after being selected to receive a Gates Millennium Scholarship. The first in her family to attend college, Estrada double majored in Spanish and anthropology with a minor in English. She studied abroad in Chile and France. After graduation, she worked at the Boys & Girls Club of Pueblo County and later returned to her alma mater to support the associate dean with equity and diversity initiatives. While pursuing her master's in higher education at the University of Denver, she worked at a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) as the assistant director of the STEM Center for Education and Engagement, where she supported students with community-based experiential learning and year-long undergraduate research communities. Estrada’s experiences led her to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Pittsburgh, where she is a K. Leroy Irvis-Equity and Justice Fellow and president of the Council of Graduate Students in Education. Estrada’s research focuses on equity and access for Latino/a/x students, student leadership, and HSIs. She is a student-mother who enjoys spending time with her partner, two kids, and dog.
Outstanding Alumni EdD Dissertation Award
- Christian Alberto, EdD
Christian Alberto serves as the director of admissions and enrollment management at SUNY College of Optometry in New York City. Alberto leads the admissions, recruitment, enrollment, and orientation strategies of the college, where he strives to ensure an equitable and inclusive process for all by bringing structural changes and continuous improvement to his organization. In addition, Alberto serves on the student affairs and institutional research and planning committees of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. Alberto earned his EdD from the University of Pittsburgh in 2021, where his dissertation focused on growing the racially minoritized student pipeline in optometry schools by utilizing a culturally responsive and strengths-based approach in recruitment. He holds a master's degree in higher education administration from the City University of New York and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. He is a 2022 fellow of the SUNY Hispanic Leadership Institute, a program designed to identify, support, and foster the success of Hispanic/Latinx leaders in higher education.