2021 Committee Members

Mary Spirito Hennessey, Lansing, MI

(2021 Committee Chair)

Mary Spirito Hennessey is the Director of the Volunteer English Tutoring Program at Michigan State University, where she works with students and scholars from all over the world. She also leads the International Book Club for LATTICE (Linking All Types of Teachers to International Cross-Cultural Education). Before retirement, Mary was a librarian for many years, where she received awards from the American Library Association, the Michigan Library Association, the City of East Lansing, Michigan, and Michigan State University for her service to teens and the community. She holds a B.A. degree from Southern Connecticut State University, and an A.M.L.S. degree from the University of Michigan.

 Jennifer Burke, DeWitt, NY 

Jennifer is the Children’s Librarian at DeWitt Community Library where she has worked since 2008, straight out of library school! She received her B.A. in English Literature from Wells College and her M.S. in Information Science from University at Albany, State University of New York. She served on the Empire State Award committee and is an active member of the Youth Services Section of New York Library Association. She has been on the SABA committee since 2012.

Karen Fenner, Syracuse, NY

Karen has been a librarian for almost 30 years – the last 20 at Westhill High School in Syracuse, New York. She received a Master’s in Library Science from Syracuse University and is active in regional school library organizations.  She has presented on inquiry learning and critical literacies at the local, state, and national level and is the recipient of a Super Librarian award from the Central New York School Librarians organization.


Sudha Gutti, Phoenixville, PA

Sudha Gutti has a masters in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India. She has about 8 years of experience in Community Development in India, and about 2 decades as a grade school teacher in several Waldorf Schools in the United States. Currently she works as a Clinician/Therapist with a non-profit organization that provides behavioral health services. Sudha is passionate about Social Justice, Multiculturalism and Alternative Education systems.

Amy Laslow, Dover, DE

A lifelong learner, Amy enthusiastically cultivates a passion for learning and promotes a transdisciplinary curriculum approach in her Visual Arts and Technology Education classes at Dover AFB Middle School in Delaware. Serving as curriculum consultant for several National Science Foundation programs utilizing Contextual Learning Units integrating STEAM, she designs authentic assessments for students to demonstrate personal growth. Desiring to infuse global citizenship into her lessons, Amy has journeyed to numerous countries across Europe, the Middle East and Asia via fellowships spawning an after-school enrichment program in International Education and sponsoring student ambassadorships to Japan. Holding a B.F.A. in Studio Art and M.I. in Curriculum/Instruction from the University of Delaware, Amy continues her artistic pursuits through wildlife photography/fiber arts/bookbinding and resides in Dover with her husband, Marc and their Sheltie, Mikokoro.

Nidhi Vij Mali, Oxford, MS

Nidhi is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Public Policy Leadership at The University of Mississippi. She has a PhD in Public Administration from The Maxwell School, Syracuse University. Her research focuses on the use mobile technologies in public administration, and social welfare policies in a global comparative context, specifically South Asia. She has worked in South Asia for over a decade across a wide array of rural development programs such as mid-day meals, rural employment guarantee act, and maternal health benefits in rural India. For her doctoral dissertation, she worked with Korku tribal women in Norther Maharastra. Dr. Vij has published in American Review of Public Administration and International Journals such as IDS Bulletin and Human Affairs.

Saba Khan Vlach, University of Iowa

Saba Khan Vlach is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at The University of Iowa. She is a Pakistani-American, Muslim woman. Saba taught elementary school for 17 years in Arlington, Texas. She earned her Master’s at Texas Woman’s University in Reading Education and her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction at The University of Texas at Austin. Saba’s research interests include teachers’ enactment of critical pedagogies, (diverse) children’s literature, literature discussions, young children’s reader responses, and inservice teacher education. Saba’s scholarship and practice draws on the conceptual frameworks of Freire’s theory of critical literacy, Kumashiro’s theory of anti-oppressive education, and Brown’s theory of humanizing critical sociocultural knowledge. Saba is thrilled to be on the SABA Committee!

 Sandra Kowalczyk, Greater Madison Area, WI

Sandra, a recently retired reading specialist, has infused SABA titles into literacy curricula since its inception. Her many awards include: Wisconsin Global Educator of the Year; Wisconsin Middle School Teacher of the Year; Association for Middle Level Education Educator of the Year; Wisconsin Education Association Council Excellence in Teaching Award; Global Teacher Prize Finalist; National Council of Teachers of English Outstanding Educator; United States Board on Books for Young People’s Bridge to Understanding Award; James Patterson Foundation PageTurner Award; and National Board Teacher Certification in Literacy.

Emera Bridger WilsonEmera Bridger Wilson, South Asia Center, Syracuse, NY (Award Coordinator and Content Specialist)

Emera is the associate director/outreach coordinator at the Syracuse University’s South Asia Center. She is also a PhD candidate in Anthropology whose research focuses on tourism and work in North India. She joined the SABA committee in 2014.