Two Honored for Education and Advocacy

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IDA NorCal honored two outstanding individuals for their work on behalf of people with dyslexia at the annual meeting of the membership on January 26 in San Francisco.

Nancy Cushen White, EdD, has worked with IDA, with the public school system, and with the many organizations that help to improve reading instruction. IDA NorCal’s new president, Emma Elizalde, one of Nancy’s former students, said it well in her introduction: “What does Nancy not do? She is a professor and researcher at UCSF and a teacher to both kids and adults. She’s a program specialist, educational therapist, she is the director of a Slingerland teacher training course, she runs her own private practice, and manages to answer emails in the middle of the night.”

Nancy has volunteered for IDA over the years at both the national and local levels. She is a past member of the IDA board of directors and was honored with a lifetime achievement award by the organization in 2007. She has served as the chair and co-chair of the IDA annual conference and is an editor of the IDA Examiner. At the branch level, she has served as a past president of IDA NorCal and currently serves as an advisory board member. She is also a representative to the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities.

Cheryl Theis, MA, was recognized for her work as an education advocate at the Berkeley-based Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF). Cheryl, who holds a B.A. in Social Welfare and a M.A. (advanced to candidacy for PhD) in Medical Anthropology from UC Berkeley, has worked at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (or DREDF) as an education advocate since 2007.

In her introduction, IDA NorCal board member Lori DePole said Cheryl has played an integral part in building what was DREDF’s fledging Foster Youth with Disabilities Education Project into a nationally-recognized model for advocacy organizations working with disabled youth and their families, and for organizations focused on child welfare. Over the years in the child welfare system alone, Cheryl has trained approximately 1,000 social workers, case managers, attorneys, and other professionals on the educational needs and rights of foster children with disabilities.

The Executive Director of DREDF stated the following about Cheryl: “It’s easy to report the numbers—even the numbers alone are impressive—but the long-lasting change Cheryl has brought to our non-profit organization is more difficult to articulate. Cheryl trains approximately 400 parents and guardians and connects with parents by phone and email approximately 1,400 times each year. She listens with empathy and delivers information that gives family members and other advocates the knowledge and confidence to move forward to receive specialized education and support in school. And when the situation is complex, when the educational authorities are particularly intractable or nonresponsive, Cheryl takes on a role to make sure that the child—who is at the heart of the matter—is best served.”