School of Education

Alumna wins the "Oscars of Teaching," becoming the first Milken Educator Award recipient of the 2019-20 season.

A group of students come in for a group hug to support their award-winning teacher.
Excited students swarm Sepulveda for a group hug. Photo: Milken Family Foundation

Social studies teacher Lauren Sepulveda, ’10, entered the gym prepared for an upbeat but typical morning assembly at Clinton Avenue School in New Haven. Instead she received the surprise of a lifetime when her name was announced as the first recipient of the 2019-20 Milken Education Award and its $25,000 prize. Watch Sepulveda receive the award.

Hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching,” the Milken Educator Awards are designed to “celebrate, elevate, and activate the American teaching profession.” It is not a lifetime achievement award. Instead, the recipients are recognized for exceptional mid-career achievements — and the promise of what they might accomplish given the resources provided with the award.

Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards, made the presentation to a shocked Sepulveda in front of a cheering crowd of students, colleagues, and local and state officials. “Lauren Sepulveda brings history to life by demonstrating how past events have shaped our nation, world, and people today. Students develop a greater understanding of the responsibilities as global citizens and lifelong learners,” said Foley.

Sepulveda, who earned a B.S. in history 7-12 at Southern is the sole award recipient in Connecticut. Nationwide, no more than 40 educators will be honored during the 2019-20 season.

Sepulveda, who teaches seventh and eighth grade, was lauded for efforts to help her students become global thinkers and empathetic citizens. In her classroom, students have met guest speakers who share personal stories of their experiences during World War II, the Korean War, and the Rwandan genocide. Another assignment challenged students to review coverage of the Revolutionary War in their text books — and determine whose perspectives were missing. The students next drafted a new chapter that included the stories of significant minorities. Sepulveda then helped the students submit their work to the text book publisher for consideration for the next edition.

In addition to the cash prize, the award includes networking and mentoring components. Sepulveda will join the other 2019-20 honorees at an all-expenses-paid trip to the Milken Educator Forum in Indianapolis from March 26-28, to connect with other educational trailblazers. In addition, each 2019 recipient will be paired with a veteran Milken Educator mentor.

West Haven High's Liam Leapley is an incredibly inspiring teacher, says recent college grad Alice Obas -- which is why she successfully nominated him for a highly prestigious teaching award.

West Haven High School teacher Liam Leapley, '00, was nominated for the award by Alice Obas. "Mr. Leapley has not only upheld the values of equity and inclusion during his teaching career but has also instilled those values in his hundreds of students, and in me," says Obas, who recently graduated from Williams College.

With graduation fast approaching, Alice Obas, then a senior at Williams College, was considering an important question in addition to planning her next phase of life: who, among her former teachers at West Haven High School, had the most influence on her education?

Such contemplation is a rite of passage for seniors at Williams, who, each year, are invited to nominate their former teachers for the George Olmsted Jr. Class of 1924 Prize for Excellence in Secondary Education.

For Obas, the choice was obvious: Southern alumnus Liam Leapley, ’00, a special education teacher at West Haven High who also leads the Program for Accelerated Credit Recovery in Education (PACE) at the school. Leapley designed and implemented PACE and, years ago, worked closely with Obas when she was a talented high school student serving as a teaching assistant with the program.

“While the Olmsted Prize is for nominating former teachers, and I was not a part of the PACE program, I feel that I learned and was taught more from Mr. Leapley than my AP [advanced placement] and Honors classes taught me out of a book,” says Obas. The judging committee was inspired as well, selecting Leapley as one of only four recipients of the Olmsted Award. In recognition, he received $3,000, and an additional $5,000 was presented to West Haven High. The award is particularly prestigious in light of the college’s standing: it’s been cited repeatedly as the top liberal arts college in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and Forbes, including this year.

PACE — an intervention program for at-risk youth in grades 8 through 12 — incorporates outside the box approaches to education, including a community-based work experience component, to reignite students’ interest in learning, “Every child can move forward, but you must be willing to work with them no matter where they begin and at which pace they move,” says Leapley, who’s been a special education teacher since 2000 and led the PACE program since 2009.

Award recipient Liam Leapley, ’00, receives an award for exceptional teaching at the high school level at Williams College’s Ivy Exercises.

His influence, notes Obas, has been profound and far-reaching. “Mr. Leapley has not only upheld the values of equity and inclusion during his teaching career but has also instilled those values in his hundreds of students, and in me,” she says.

Southern has historically been a leader in the field of education, with graduates of the School of Education earning many top awards at the state level and beyond. Among the honorees is Jahana Hayes,’05, who was named the National Teacher of the Year in 2016 and went on to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

✉️ Deliver to:

Dr. Laura Bower-Phipps
Professor & Coordinator of Elementary/Bilingual Undergraduate Programs
Department of Curriculum and Learning


Dear Professor,

You are a model of impactful teaching and mentoring at SCSU. You are not only committed and reliable, but you are a positive and effective educator and researcher for your students, colleagues and community partners. I have interacted with you considerably in your capacity as my master’s thesis advisor, mentor, co-researcher, and most recently, dissertation committee member. During this time, I have come to know you very well and therefore can comment on many aspects of your advising and mentoring. It has been a true blessing working with you, and I genuinely appreciate your guidance, encouragement, and commitment to providing the most positive and productive experiences possible. You are reliably accessible and provide constructive and frequent feedback. An important aspect of your interactions with students is your ability to provide structure while allowing students autonomy and opportunities for growth and creativity.

Thank you,
Lauren Chicoski, Ed.D., ’19 🦉


About Laura Bower-Phipps

Favorite Teaching Moment:

My students created sidewalk chalk art to show what they had learned from a book we read for class. I tweeted their masterpieces, and the book author re-tweeted their work.

Teaching Philosophy:

I believe that students are most successful in the classroom when they are engaged in the types of work they will do after they leave SCSU. I work to embed this type of meaningful learning in my courses. For some of my grad students, that has meant presenting research with me at national conferences. For my undergrads, it has meant partnering with schools and community organizations to promote elementary students’ learning.

Favorite Course to Teach:

It’s hard to choose a favorite course because I enjoy them all. I love teaching the student teaching seminar because I get to watch my students transition from being students to being teachers over the course of the semester. I also love how much I learn about my students in the Family Partnerships course, and how much I learn about schools from my students in the Responsive Curriculum & Assessment Course.

Recent Courses Taught:

  • Family, School, and Community Partnerships
  • Student Teaching Seminar
  • Responsive Curriculum & Assessment

Celebration of Excellence: Outstanding Faculty Advising Award

2019 Recipient: Dr. Gayle Bogel, Associate Professor and Coordinator of the School Library Media Program

About the award

The Outstanding Faculty Academic Advising Award recognizes the integral links between excellent academic advising and student retention and success, and rewards faculty who provide exceptional academic advising and mentoring to undergraduate or graduate students.

About the recipient

For the last three years, the advising load of Dr. Gayle Bogel has averaged 50-plus students each semester, yet the recommendations of her students are unanimous: Dr. Bogel made each one feel that their time and circumstance were of the utmost importance. One student noted, “Outside of my family, she has had the most influence over my successful completion of this program.”

“A true mentor,” “outstanding,” “compassionate,” and “exceptional” are just a few of the descriptors used to convey Dr. Bogel’s professional and personal ethics. According to a colleague, The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) has embedded dispositions in all of their new national Standards, and Dr. Bogel models the following: “she works successfully with others, she promotes collaborative planning with others, and she models and shares ethical and legal principles of education and librarianship.”

Former students speak highly of Dr. Bogel as an educator and adviser, some noting that her mentorship continued even after they graduate and that “Dr. Bogel was the mentor I needed in my most difficult times in the program… she was always willing to talk, and she had both the knowledge and the compassion to help me solve my problems and soothe my anxieties.”

In addition to her teaching and advising, Dr. Bogel has written numerous academic articles, presented at national and international conferences, and received several honors and awards, including the John and Hilda Jay Award for Significant Contribution to the Library Media Field.

Dr. Bogel received her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Information Science from the University of North Texas; an M.L.S. from Southern; and an M.A. in Education from Sacred Heart University.

Southern’s educator preparation programs have received full continuing approval until September 2019 from the state Board of Education.

The board found that Southern met all state standards and fully addressed the areas in which the state Department of Education sought improvement when it granted the university’s programs probationary approval last fall.

Southern also earned a full, five-year national accreditation under the rigorous standards of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) in late 2014. That reaccreditation was administered by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

“We are very pleased that our professional education unit has received full approval from the state, and we look forward to further enhancing our program in the spirit of the continuous improvement model that is at the heart of successful educator preparation programs,” said SCSU President Mary A. Papazian.

“I thank School of Education Dean Stephen Hegedus for his leadership, and the faculty and staff in our schools of Education, Arts & Sciences, and Health and Human Services for their dedication to maintaining our time-honored standards of excellence,” President Papazian said.

“Southern has been the frontrunner in educator preparation in our state for the last 120 years, and our graduates will continue to teach and lead in Connecticut’s schools.”

The SCSU School of Education prepares the largest number of education graduates for teaching positions in Connecticut. In addition to elementary, secondary and special education programs, it prepares students for careers in such fields as athletic training, educational leadership, human performance, and counseling and school psychology.