March 13, 2024

Earlier this month, The Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Special Education operated by The New England Center for Children (MRC-NECC) celebrated a significant milestone in the lives of many of its staff, and one professional in particular. During the graduation ceremony of the first-ever cohort from Simmons University, Alya Al-Suwaidi was presented with the Dr. D. Daniel Gould Award for Global Excellence in Special Education Teaching, a testament to her dedication and impact in the field of special education and applied behavior analysis (ABA).

“Alya is a perfect choice for the Dr. D. Daniel Gould Award for Global Excellence in Special Education Teaching,” shared Chris Evans, MEd, professor of practice and the graduate program director for Simmons University at NECC. “Her passion for teaching and her leadership style embodies the spirit of Dan’s vision and mission.”

Al-Suwaidi has worked at MRC-NECC since 2017 as a therapist. She has always loved working with children, which led her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in education from the Emirates College for Advanced Education. “Through my studies, I was introduced to ABA and special education, which immediately sparked an interest in me as it combined my two favorite things: helping people and working with children,” Al-Suwaidi explained.

This focus paved the way for an internship at MRC-NECC, but she loved the mission so much, she opted to stay. Over the last five years, Al-Suwaidi has made significant contributions to the center, and her commitment to professional growth led her to pursue a master’s degree through Simmons University. “Simmons introduced me to so many different teaching techniques and emphasized the importance of culturally responsive teaching,” she shared. “This ultimately gave me the knowledge and skills I needed to have an inclusive classroom.”

Al-Suwaidi was the first-ever Dr. D. Daniel Gould Award for Global Excellence in Special Education Teaching, something that means more to her as she was able to work with Dr. Gould before his untimely passing in August 2021. Before his death, Dr. Gould, who was the executive director of MRC-NECC, was instrumental in bringing the Simmons master’s degree program to MRC-NECC.

“I was extremely honored to be given this award,” Al-Suwaidi said. “I met Dr. Dan when I was fresh out of college and his passion and vision always stuck with me and shaped the way I view working at the Centre. Dr. Dan was a great leader, and I can only hope that by receiving this award I made him proud.”

Al-Suwaidi will continue to honor Dr. Gould’s memory through her work at MRC-NECC. “My favorite part of the job Is definitely working with the children and exploring their different personalities and interests,” she said. “These kids teach me something new every day and I feel blessed to be able to be a part of their lives.”