Claribel Riss Goes the Distance

Claribel RissClaribel Riss (member since May 2015) was chosen as the Touro College Graduate School of Education (GSE) speaker for commencement which takes place Thursday afternoon, June 16 at New York’s Lincoln Center.

Not only has she traveled at least 75 miles from her home in East Stroudsburg, PA. to her job as a teacher at a Bronx middle school for a number of years, but she has also made the trip on Sundays to attend Touro College GSE in New York City, where she earned her second master’s degree this year in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

Riss was born in the Dominican Republic. She majored in Spanish, her first language, as an undergraduate at SUNY Geneseo. Claribel had taught 11 years when she earned her first master’s degree from Touro College GSE in special education.

Currently a special education and ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, Riss teaches grades 6 through 8 at New Venture Middle School, a ‘renewal school.’ Despite the challenges she was told to expect working with students who have behavioral issues, she says, “I always go in with an open mind, because children act differently with different adults. I try to give them a fair chance, to get to know them, what kind of learner they are, and how they learn.”

“TESOL is not bilingual education,” she said, adding that today there is much more diversity among learners. “We have students who speak Arabic, or Urdu (the language of Pakistan) and students from Yemen. It’s like going around the world and learning about life and education and feeling enriched.”

Riss’s approach speaks to that diversity. “I like to know where they come from and their cultural background. You have to address the culture. You can’t just say ‘you are in the United States now and get with the program.’”

To become acquainted with her students, Riss interviews their parents and helped develop a survey that addresses “what they know, what their deficits are and how to get to know them,” she said, adding, “I can help students succeed in a country that might be strange to them.”

Riss is so well respected in the education community, she was offered a partial scholarship towards training in administration by her principal. However she declined, “I said no. Administration is not for me; I like being in a classroom.”

Claribel, a mother of two, has been a straight-A student and is graduating with an MS in TESOL with a 3.88 GPA. Her dedication to the teaching profession and her students is evident in all she does.

Dr. Sonna Opstad, Associate Professor of TESOL/Bilingual Education at the GSE, praised Riss as an outstanding student who took extra care in everything she did. “Her attention to detail, high standards, and exceptional insight were evident in every assignment. She contributed to our work in a constructive and thoughtful way. She is truly an inspiration to her colleagues and to me,” she said.

Congratulations from your KDP community, Claribel Riss!

Meet Ashlyn Williams!

Check out this month’s Member Spotlight, Ashlyn Williams! Ashlyn has been a member of KDP since 2011. Connect with her in KDP Global.

Ashlyn WilliamsWhat do you value most about your KDP membership?
The endless networking possibilities! Meeting with like-minded professionals who share the love, passion and dedication for education and sharing insight, experience, tips and words of encouragement. Educators bear the torch that enlightens young minds and creates tomorrow’s leaders.

What is your most used KDP member benefit?
My two most used KDP member benefits are the discounts for partnering education retailers and the access to webinars and publications. As an educator, it is important to remain abreast of new studies, theories, and educational policies.

What do you love about being an educator?
What I love about being an educator is the rewarding opportunity to give the gift of learning, transform lives, and impact the families and communities I serve. I also enjoy what I like to call the Light Bulb-Twinkle effect; the moment when a child, who has been struggling, suddenly grasps a concept (Light bulb on) and then demonstrates an eagerness to apply the concept on their own (Twinkle in the eyes).

Meet Shannon Rice!

Check out this month’s Member Spotlight, Shannon Rice! Shannon has been a member of KDP since 2002 and is a scholarship reviewer and chairman of the membership committee. Connect with her in KDP Global.

Shannon RiceWhat do you value most about your KDP membership?
I value Kappa Delta Pi because it allows me to connect with other professionals, amazing resources, and fantastic opportunities to grow as an educator.

What is your most used KDP member benefit?
The webinars, both live and archived. These experiences never fail to leave me with ideas that I can’t wait to try in my classroom.

What do you love about being an educator?
I love being in education because teaching provides such fulfillment, and I don’t know any other profession that would allow me to share my passion, continue to grow as a learner, and make a difference in the lives of individual students every day.

Meet Alexis Petrak!

Check out this month’s Member Spotlight, Alexis Petrak! Alexis joined Kappa Delta Pi in 2012 and is president of Zeta Iota Chapter at East Tennessee State University.

Photo Credit: ETSU Photo Lab

Photo Credit: ETSU Photo Lab

Here at KDP headquarters, we try to stay up on our members and chapters in the news as much as possible. We were thrilled to get a message from Zeta Iota Chapter Counselor Dr. Chris Loveday.

She shared this fantastic article with us from East Tennessee State University’s homepage about Alexis Petrak, Zeta Iota Chapter President.

We especially loved this part:

“As part of her interest in teaching, Petrak joined Kappa Delta Pi, the education honor society, which she now serves as president. ‘I am very proud of our chapter,’ she says. ‘We attend a convocation every two years and consistently bring home honors as a top chapter within the organization. But there are other rewards. As future teachers, we network and provide support for each other during our student teaching days.’”

Congratulations on your accomplishments, Alexis! We are certainly very proud of you.

If you, your chapter, or a fellow Kadelpian is in the news, we want to hear about it! Please email a link to

Meet Zachery Sminkey!

Check out this month’s Member Spotlight, Zachery Sminkey! Zachery joined Kappa Delta Pi this year and is a member of Eta Psi Chapter at Rowan University. Connect with him KDP Global.

Zack 1What do you value most about your KDP membership?
I value the connections that I get to make by being involved with this prestigious organization. Education is really a field where collaboration is paramount, and I am grateful that by being a member of KDP, not only do I get to interact with a lot of different educators, but also educators that I know take this profession seriously.

What is your most used KDP member benefit?
I’m new to KDP, so I am still exploring the many different ways that I can use my membership. But from browsing on the message boards (in KDP Global) , it will definitely be a great resource that I can go to to ask other educators questions.

What do you love about being an educator?
I’m still in school, so I wouldn’t call myself a full-fledged educator just yet, but what I’m looking forward to is having a positive impact on my students lives. There are a lot of kids out there who do not have people to encourage them in their dreams and give them direction, and I look forward to being that for my students.

Meet James Newman!

Check out this month’s Member Spotlight, James Newman! James has been a KDP member since 2013. Connect with him KDP Global.

James Newman flipWhat do you value most about your KDP membership?
The chance to meet other members is what I value most about my membership in Kappa Delta Pi. I have found my colleagues in the organization to be energetic, creative and enthusiastic about sharing what they have learned about teaching.

What is your most used KDP member benefit?
I use the KDP webinars most among the benefits offered by KDP. They are extremely useful, relating directly to what I am trying to do in the classroom. The webinars are well-organized so that they allow for interaction with the presenter. And the archives are a great way to catch up with webinars that I didn’t have time to attend.

Why do you use KDP Global?
I use KDP Global to access all the benefits of being a KDP member.

What do you love about being an educator?
I love being connected to the knowledge of the world and to the community of learners. Teaching links me to a caring family of life-long learners (teachers) and exploring learners (students).