Central Bucks special education instructional aide is PSEA’s 2023 Education Support Professional of the Year

HARRISBURG, PA (Nov. 15, 2023) — Denise Kueny, a special education instructional aide in the Central Bucks School District, is the Pennsylvania State Education Association’s (PSEA) 2023 Dolores McCracken Education Support Professional of the Year.

The announcement came during American Education Week and as schools across the commonwealth celebrate Education Support Professionals Day, a day to recognize the hardworking support staff who help meet students’ needs and make our schools run smoothly.

Kueny said she was honored to receive this award and that there was no better time than American Education Week to celebrate Pennsylvania’s hardworking education support professionals.

“I am honored to be named PSEA’s 2023 Dolores McCracken Education Support Professional of the Year,” Kueny said. “It is an opportunity to highlight the value of every support professional and the work they do each day in order to foster an environment where students can thrive and achieve their goals.

“Over the past 21 years, I have been fortunate to go to work in a place I love, with people I love. I have met, helped, and been inspired by hundreds of incredible students who have forever impacted my life. I am grateful and humbled by this award. Thank you.”

Kueny works as a special education instructional aide at Tohickon Middle School in the Central Bucks School District. In this role, she assists students in learning skills and lessons, offering plenty of guidance and encouragement along the way.

School colleagues praised Kueny for her dedication, noting that she often spends hours of her own free time reading and preparing to help students during the next day’s lessons.

“Her commitment to our students’ success knows no bounds,” Central Bucks Education Support Professional President Deneen Dry wrote in nominating Kueny. “She goes the extra mile to ensure that each child feels valued and empowered, whether it’s providing assistance during difficult moments, offering words of encouragement, or finding innovative ways to engage and inspire.”

Dry noted that Kueny is a strong supporter of and an asset to her local union, the Central Bucks Education Support Professionals Association.

Bill Senavaitis, president of the PSEA Mideastern Region and a teacher and colleague at Tohickon Middle School, said Kueny is often at school prior to 7 a.m. so that she can open the school doors and be the first to greet students as they arrive each morning.

She brings that same welcoming spirit to her work as a special education instructional aide, Senavaitis said.

“If Denise is in a classroom, she is helping students — not just her students, everyone in the room, including the other adults,” Senavaitis wrote in nominating Kueny.

Michelle Dachowski, a teacher and colleague at Tohickon Middle School, said Kueny works to ensure both the academic and emotional needs of students are met.

“Denise knows that if the student is not emotionally present within the classroom, they are unable to demonstrate their understanding of the skills and concepts being taught,” Dachowski wrote in nominating Kueny. “She builds a rapport with her students that allows them to share when they need additional support.”

PSEA President Aaron Chapin said Kueny serves as an important reminder of the pivotal role that support professionals play in ensuring the success of Pennsylvania’s students.

“Every day, Denise is supporting the students at Tohickon Middle School, helping them to succeed in the classroom and in life,” Chapin said. “She is also a strong voice for the members of her local and a powerful advocate for education support professionals everywhere. From reaching out to new members to supporting her colleagues on a daily basis, Denise is a remarkable person, and I am proud to count her as a PSEA member.”

In addition to working as an instructional aide, Kueny is a building rep for the Central Bucks Education Association. She has also been involved in the Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society that is held at Tohickon Middle School each spring.

As PSEA’s Dolores McCracken Education Support Professional of the Year, Kueny will be recognized at the PSEA House of Delegates’ meeting in December. She will also be in the running to be the National Education Association’s Education Support Professional of the Year in 2024.

The award is named in memory of the late Dolores McCracken who served as PSEA’s president until her death in November 2018 following a brief battle with cancer. McCracken worked as a paraeducator in a sixth-grade inclusion classroom in the Council Rock School District for nearly two decades. During that time, she was a local, region, and statewide PSEA leader, ultimately becoming the first education support professional member to serve as PSEA’s president.