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In the Spotlight » Employees of the Month

Employees of the Month

 Picture of Karen Graham Employee of the Month


Karen has been a Direct Support Professional (DSP) in DDI’s Adult Residential Services Program for 26 years. She has been working at the same residence since it opened! With empathy, patience and dedication, she is a fierce advocate for the people she supports. Karen creates a safe space for them to feel comfortable expressing their feelings, needs and desires openly. Throughout her time at DDI, she has contributed significantly to their educational, personal and physical development.


Karen has helped to train numerous staff over the years and does whatever it takes to keep the program running smoothly. She is a model DSP and embodies the core values of integrity, dignity, compassion and teamwork.


We thank you, Karen, for your invaluable knowledge and service and congratulate you on this special recognition. We look forward to many more years to come!




Three women - Pam Hill Employee of the Month

Julia Lopez is a special education teacher who embodies DDI’s core values of integrity, dignity, compassion and teamwork. She creates a sense of community and a positive learning environment within her classroom and ensures that her students get the best possible education. As a teacher and colleague, she shares her ideas, lesson plans and organization systems with coworkers.


She exemplifies a high level of integrity in everything she does in her classroom. All new teachers in the building know they can ask her questions related to a curriculum topic and be fully supported, thoughtfully and honestly. We are grateful for Julia and her ongoing dedication to her students, families and fellow coworkers. Congratulations on this well-deserved honor!




Pam Hill and Erin Davies

Pam goes above and beyond to advocate for her students and families every day. While managing a very busy classroom with 12 students, Pam continues to develop and implement new lessons and keeps her students engaged throughout the entire day. She holds them to a high standard, which enables them to reach their fullest potential.


Pam is a true team player who embodies DDI’s core values. She welcomes student teachers into her classroom and provides a great model of what kind of teacher they can aspire to be. No matter the situation, Pam always remains calm, patient and positive. Her warm smile and caring demeanor can be felt by students and staff alike.


We thank Pam for being an exemplary teacher and congratulate her on being Employee of the Month!




DDI staff

(Pictured center)

Jim Gramarossa is a staff member that DDI is lucky to have. He is extremely knowledgeable in his field of work and uses it to provide the best supports for his students as well as his staff. He always goes above and beyond for everyone and always has a smile on his face. Jim encourages team building and takes care to ensure teaching staff are correctly trained and equipped with measures to keep everyone engaged, happy and safe.


He is quick to mentor new and senior teachers, staff, and even his peers. His ability to look at the big picture of a student’s future is exactly what the Children’s Day Program is striving for. Jim is always the first to help around the building, volunteering to stay after school if a student needs assistance or volunteering to present topics at program in-service meetings. Jim’s approach to teaching staff and children comes from a genuine love for his career.


We are so grateful for Jim’s dedicated service and wish to congratulate him on becoming Employee of the Month.



Ashley Moran DDI Employee of the Month

Ashley is a very upbeat person who is always willing to help the students and staff members in the Children’s Residential Program (CRP). She has been instrumental in almost every staff morale initiative the CRP has participated in. She even came in on her day off to set up the Super Bowl Party to ensure everyone had a great experience.


Never has there been a time when Ashley did not have an idea to enhance the lives of the students and staff to make them happier. She forms lifelong bonds with the children she supports and their families. She remembers little details about every person and when people come back to visit, they light up when they see her.


She always puts others before herself and is a true role model of what someone with integrity, compassion and teamwork represents.


Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition, Ashley. We are incredibly grateful to you for your outstanding efforts.




Daniel Guerra DDI Employee of the Month

Daniel Guerra
Program Manager
Adult Day Services Program

Dan is an honest, patient, caring person who goes above and beyond for the adults in his care. In addition to his role as Program Manager in the Adult Day Services Program, he is also a per-diem staff member for the Respite Program and is always quick to help other programs in need of assistance.


Dan developed person-specific trips to help the people we serve become more independent, and he updated all of the “grab-and-go” books in the Without Walls Program vans. Dan is a great communicator and always addresses challenges with solutions, offering anything he can do to help make the day run smoothly in the community.  


We are so grateful for Dan’s hard work and dedication. Congratulations on this well-deserved honor!



Jennifer Gregor EOM (holding plaque)

Jennifer Gregor

Human Resources Assistant

Administration - Smithtown


If you have ever come to DDI’s Hollywood Drive Campus and stopped at the front reception desk, you've most likely spoken to Jennifer Gregor.


In her role as Human Resources Assistant, Jennifer works at the front desk answering phones, greeting guests and parents and tending to the needs of employees, whether in person or on the phone, Jennifer manages to make working at the front desk, distractions and all, look easy!  Jennifer always maintains a positive, calm attitude and is a real team player! 


During the peak of the pandemic, Jennifer was at DDI’s Hollywood Drive building every day to assist coworkers who were working remotely and in program - relaying messages, opening mail, filling PPE orders, copying and scanning documents, etc. We were all successful because of her efforts!


Jennifer is a dedicated employee who is quick to offer to help out and assume additional tasks. Recently, during the absence of one of the HR department team members, Jennifer took on processing tuition reimbursement and ID badges and didn't miss a beat! Jennifer has a strong work ethic and likes to keep busy. She even has an almost perfect attendance record, which is a testament to her dedication to DDI.




Employee of the Month Mary Newman 

Mary Newman

Education Behavior Specialist

Early Childhood Services – Ronkonkoma


Always going above and beyond for the good of the students and staff, Mary Newman is a compassionate, skilled supervisor. She will often study the strengths and weaknesses of each student and make sure the teachers have what they need to be successful in helping each one of them.


It is important to Mary that her staff are happy, respected, valued and heard. She knows that will trickle down to happy and successful students, which results in a successful DDI. She will often treat staff to raffles or breakfast if there is a challenging week or simply stop into the classrooms to make sure everyone has what they need and treat staff to her wonderful sense of humor to make them smile.


Mary, by example, gives her staff the passion to live and work by DDI’s core values. She is truly invaluable to DDI and her team.



 Dawn Herbst Employee of the Month

Dawn Herbst

Teacher Assistant

Early Childhood Services / Medford Campus


Dawn demonstrates the utmost integrity, dignity and compassion every day with both staff and students. She uses her own personal experiences with children with autism and shares this knowledge effectively with staff. Dawn helps to foster a creative learning environment for her students and helps team members grow as individuals and as teachers. She even set up a photo booth and arranged a pizza party at her family’s pizza parlor for staff.


Dawn’s heart is always in her work, and she brings her best self to every interaction. DDI is proud to recognize her for all of her talents!




EOM Michelle Reser-Kalb

Michelle Reser-Kalb

Children’s Day Program – Huntington

Behavior Specialist


Michelle Reser-Kalb is an excellent Behavior Specialist who cares deeply for each one of her students. She makes sure that they receive the best education possible and goes the extra mile for families to ensure their needs are met to the best of her ability.


Michelle is the ultimate team player and does anything asked of her with a smile and great tenacity. She always has a kind word and can make a seemingly impossible situation manageable.


Michelle is the backbone of the Children’s Day Program in Huntington. She does so much and her unending support for students and staff cannot be overstated.


Congratulations, Michelle. We are so grateful for all that you do each and every day.



Employee of the Month Karen DeLaura


Karen DeLaura

Speech Therapist

Children’s Day Program – Smithtown


Karen is an exemplary employee and has been an amazing speech provider for many years. Not only is she a skilled professional in providing speech therapy but she also goes above and beyond her role each day. She works well with every student and works as a true team player with all members of her students’ teams. Karen serves as an outstanding role model and trainer for new speech providers and is the first person to assist in any emergency situation.


She always maintains a positive and upbeat attitude and keeps her department up to date, while building seamless transitions among other departments.


Karen’s dedication to the Children’s Day Program staff and students is unmatched, and her hard work is greatly appreciated.




EOM Kerry O'Donnell

Kerry O'Donnell
Direct Support Professional

Children's Residential Program


Kerry is an amazing Direct Support Professional, who takes great pride in her work. She provides care and instruction for not only her own residence but also the other residences when, and if, the need arises. She is friendly and professional and has recently finished her Master’s degree in clinical psychology.


Kerry is quick to help anyone in need of assistance, especially during the pandemic, and is well-respected by her colleagues and supervisors. When faced with challenges, Kerry remains calm and stays positive. She has a heart of gold and is a fierce advocate for the children she supports.


One of the children will even request her by name, saying, “I want O’Donnell as counselor.”


Congratulations, Kerry. We thank you for your outstanding commitment and wish you much-continued success.



Congratulations! We applaud your commitment to the people supported by DDI and your fellow team members.