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National Educator Award: Joan Levine Honored for Work in Special Education

National Educator Award


Joan Levine, who has faced learning disabilities of her own, has been recognized nationally for her contributions to the education of those with special needs.

Levine, lecturer in special education at Cal State Fullerton, was honored with the 2011 Sam Kirk Educator of the Year Award by the Learning Disabilities Association of America during the organization’s annual conference in Jacksonville, Fla. The award is named in honor of Samuel A. Kirk, a psychologist and scholar in the field of learning disabilities.

“I feel very honored to receive this award. What keeps me going is the support and understanding from all of the people in my life who have given me the opportunity to show that there is more to a person then their disability,” said Levine, who is in her 15th year of teaching on campus. “I prefer to do my job and see the progress of my students. That is all the reward I need.”

Levine’s colleagues lauded her for her dedicated work with students to help them overcome their own challenges.

“The Department of Special Education is incredibly proud of our outstanding colleague, Dr. Joan Levine, for receiving this award,” said Melinda R. Pierson, chair and professor of special education. “She is an amazingly hard worker who definitely deserves this prestigious honor.”

Levine, who is dyslexic and has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), says she has always had difficulties with reading, spelling and math. She struggled through elementary and high school and was not diagnosed until college.

After years of behavior-modification therapy, and with the help of tutors and others, she overcame her own challenges to achieve success.

“I learned coping and compensatory mechanisms that I now share with my students,” said Levine, who holds a doctorate in education and lives in Anaheim.

In her nomination letter from the Learning Disabilities Association of America, California chapter, Levine is characterized as a leader in her field — someone who “truly exemplifies the success that a person with learning disabilities can have if one has the right support for their disability.”

What makes Levine most proud is that she has gained the respect of her peers and students alike. “Today, I am treated with respect, and my ideas are accepted. This is a new experience for me because I have grown up being called names, teased and thought of as dumb, stupid or lazy. That is why I teach, so that doesn’t happen to anyone.”

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Media Contacts:

Joan Levine, Special Education, 657-278-3909 or

Debra Cano Ramos, Public Affairs, 657-278-4027; 657-278-2414 or

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