When Sharon Raimondi,’71, ’74, learned she had been awarded the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York State Council for Exceptional Children, the highest honor awarded to an individual, she was surprised. But those who are familiar with Raimondi’s lifelong work know it was a well-deserved honor. Raimondi, professor of exceptional education, is director of the doctoral program in special education offered jointly by Buffalo State and the University at Buffalo.
In introducing her at the CEC award luncheon, Kevin Miller (at right), dean of the Graduate School, said, “Sharon willingly shares her expertise, materials, and experience. She also willingly shares credit for joint accomplishments. It is never about Sharon! Instead, it is always about what is best for those she engages, whether it be children, teachers, doctoral students, or colleagues.”
When Raimondi was accepted into the exceptional education program at Buffalo State, she listened to the late Hank Mann, professor emeritus and founder of Buffalo State’s ex ed program, explain the program. “I thought, ‘I can do that,’” she said. More than 40 years later, she still is.
She taught exceptional education in the Buffalo Public Schools before the federal Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed in 1975. Later, she went to Binghamton where she researched exceptional education practices. She also started one of the first resource rooms in New York State.
“I always knew I wanted to teach college,” she said, “so I went to American University and earned my Ph.D. Working in Washington, D.C., on several federal research grants gave me a national perspective.” When she moved back to New York State, she was hired at Buffalo State in 1992. “At that time, a number of Buffalo State faculty taught courses at UB,” she said. “When the director of the joint doctoral program retired, they asked me to take the position until they hired someone.”
That “interim” position, which began in 1999, became permanent. Since then, 39 students have earned their Ph.D. “If just half became teacher educators,” noted Miller, “they will affect 10,000 teachers, and the number of children they reach exceeds 100,000. All of them will have been influenced by Sharon’s passion as well as her commitment to evidence-based instruction.”
During her tenure as director of the joint doctoral program, Raimondi also held many professional positions including NYS CEC president; NYS CEC co-editor of Exceptional Individuals; CEC treasurer; Higher Education Consortium of Special Educators (HECSE), member at large; National Association of State Directors of Special Education/ IDEA Partnership, HECSE Representative; Hopevale Union Free School District, school board member; and service on numerous boards at community and state-wide organizations, including NYS Education Department leadership teams and task forces.
Her scholarship is evidenced by more than 60 publications and about 200 presentations and workshops.
Over the years, the biggest changes Raimondi has seen in exceptional education are higher rates of inclusion of individuals with disabilities in general education classrooms; higher expectations for those individuals; and, overall, greater visibility for a population that, at the start of her career, was not ensured a right to any education at all. Going forward, she said, “We have to keep working on it. We have evidence demonstrating what instructional methods work, and we have to keep implementing those methods across all school districts nationwide. I’m humbled by this award; I was just doing what I thought you were supposed to do.”
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