Seven graduates of Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s College of Education and Communications, including two from Indiana County, were honored recently as the first class of Impact Award recipients.
The College of Education and Communications Impact Awards recognizes and honors alumni and friends who have demonstrated illustrious professional accomplishments, outstanding character, and a commitment to community service and philanthropy.
College of Education and Communications Dean Dr. Lara Luetkehans presented the awards.
“The Impact Awards serve to inspire current students,” Luetkehans said. “The honor bestowed on our alumni is a symbol of the respect and admiration held by the College of Education and Communications for these celebrated alumni and friends. Through their extraordinary achievements, they have established a lasting legacy of excellence.”
Local and regional honorees include:
• Leigh Heidenthal, of Homer City, a 1996 bachelor’s degree in elementary education and Master of Education in literacy in 2002 graduate. A teacher in the Indiana Area School District, she has also taught elementary school in Prince George’s County School District in Maryland and Westmont Hilltop School District. Heidenthal has spent much of her career as a first-grade teacher.
She participates in IUP’s professional development school program as a mentor teacher and supports IUP students as a guest speaker in classes. Heidenthal authored and published a children’s book titled “A Brother For Benny.”
• Diane Sobolewski, of Indiana, a 1975 bachelor’s degree in special education and 1980 Master’s degree in adult and community education graduate. As a 21-year temporary faculty member in the department of communication disorders, special education and disability services, Sobolewski has supervised pre-student teachers, student teachers, and interns. Sobo-lewski serves as the chair of the statewide student awards for the Pennsylvania Career and Technical Education Special Populations.
She is involved with the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Sobolewski consults with the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute about Individualized Education Program accommodations.
She is the recipient of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Visionary Award and was named the 2007 Direct Vocational Special Needs Support Person of the Year by the Pennsylvania Association of Vocational Education Special Needs Personnel.
She is a former board member and president of ICW Vocational Services Inc. and Camp Sunrise Inc.
• Megan Baker, formerly of Butler County, a 1996 communications media degree graduate of IUP. She is the founder, president and CEO of Baker Public Relations, a full-service communications firm in Albany, N.Y.
• Brian Root, of Greensburg, a 2006 Master of Arts in student affairs in higher education graduate.
During his master’s coursework, he served as an executive board member for the Associates for Student Development group. Root is the assistant director of housing and residence life at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English writing in 2004.
• Maya Cryor, formerly of Berks County and currently living in Los Angeles, a 2014 communications media graduate. Cryor works for producer-director Stan Lathan, who is an Primetime Emmy and Tony award winner.
• Jan Kennerknecht, of Edinboro, a 1977 master’s in education degree graduate.
She is the founder of Kennerknect Consulting, which produces curriculum workshops in northwestern Pennsylvania and at Ohio State University.
• Dr. David Lillenstein, of Lebanon, a 2002 doctor of education in school psychology graduate. Lillenstein began work in the Derry Township School District as a school psychologist in 2002.