August 12, 2020

Chosen for call with First Lady Melania Trump, Succasunna resident later elected to national presidency for the Council for Exceptional Children

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J., Aug. 12, 2020—It’s been quite a year for Succasunna resident Danielle M. Kovach, Ed.D. First, the Centenary University adjunct professor of education was selected for a surprise phone call with First Lady Melania Trump. Several weeks later, Dr. Kovach learned that she had been elected president-elect of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), the leading national association for educators of children and youth with exceptionalities.

A third grade special education teacher at Tulsa Trail School in Hopatcong, Dr. Kovach was preparing to teach a virtual class last spring when the phone rang with an ID that simply said “Washington, D.C.” The caller, a deputy director of communications for the first lady, asked if Dr. Kovach would consider accepting a call from “a VIP in the White House.” The VIP turned out to be the first lady, offering her congratulations on Teacher Appreciation Day and checking in on Dr. Kovach and her students during the pandemic.

“I was honored,” noted Dr. Kovach, who was selected for the call by the U.S. Department of Education. “The first lady and I had a wonderful conversation. Later, she sent me an official challenge coin and a letter from the White House.”

Soon after, Dr. Kovach was named president-elect of the CEC. Her term will begin on Jan. 1, 2022. Her role includes overseeing the CEC’s committees and Board of Directors, as well as providing critical leadership on the organization’s planning and programs. She believes that current issues affecting our nation, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and social injustice, will have important implications on teaching, long into her term. “For me, to be a teacher while having this role with the CEC is exciting,” she said. “We need to learn from our current reality and move forward by providing our teachers with resources and tools they can implement in the classroom.”

A graduate of Kutztown University, Dr. Kovach earned master’s degrees from East Stroudsburg University and New Jersey City University, as well as a doctorate in special education from Walden University. In 2011 she was named New Jersey State Teacher of the Year, Sussex County Teacher of the Year, and Hopatcong Teacher of the Year. A year later, she was awarded a national teaching title, the National Education Association Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence, and in 2014 was named the CEC Teacher of the Year.

At Centenary, she has taught special education courses for undergraduate and graduate students for two years. She plans to incorporate her higher education experience into her role as CEC president: “Centenary works tirelessly to meet the diverse needs of our students with exceptionalities. I am proud to teach in a University that values the inclusion of all students and shares the same beliefs as CEC.”


Founded in 1867 by the Newark Conference of the United Methodist Church, Centenary University’s academic program integrates a solid liberal arts foundation with a strong career orientation. This mix provides an educational experience that prepares students to succeed in the increasingly global and interdependent world. The University’s main campus is located in Hackettstown, N.J., with its equestrian facility in Washington Township. The Centenary University School of Professional Studies offers degree programs in Parsippany, as well as online and at corporate sites throughout New Jersey.

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