CES special education teacher wins award


Nick Yacovou understands that to be a good special education teacher, he must be willing to adapt to the needs and interests of all his Therapeutic Day Program (TDP) students.

“You must be able to recognize that there is no ‘one size fits all,’ especially in special education,” Yacovou said. “What’s easy for some kids is not easy for others, and it’s really rewarding to see my students grow.”

His colleagues have recognized Yacovou’s enthusiasm and flexibility, as well as his eagerness to work as a team member. As a result, Cooperative Educational Services (C.E.S.), has honored Yacovou as the 2015-16 Teacher of the Year.

TDP is a regional special education school placement for children and adolescents with a variety of emotional and behavioral disabilities. Elementary, middle, and high school students who are referred by their local school districts are eligible for placement in the program.

Yacovou, 29, of New Haven, has been a TDP special education teacher since 2011, working at the program’s school at 25 Oakview Drive in Trumbull.

Six different TDP staff members nominated Yacovou for Teacher of the Year honors. Among other attributes, his peers credited him as cooperative, approachable, patient, and determined.

“His enthusiasm carries out while teaching and is evident in his lessons in the classroom and the participation and response from the students,” wrote Dana Pereira, a technology integration specialist at TDP.

Yacovou was flattered to be recognized by his peers and credits the teamwork of his fellow teachers. He said all the classroom instructors and support staff work well together and each are deserving of recognition. He credits two in particular – educational assistant Christine Scarpetti and social worker Kelly LoVerme – as having great impact on his growth as a teacher.

“There is a true team effort throughout TDP,” Yacovou said. “It is a great place and all the staff do an amazing job. The collaboration makes it a pleasure to come to work, even on our most difficult days.”

This year, Yacovou and his peers have used superheroes to connect with their students. He said the kids in his class love characters like Captain America and Superman, and each has adopted a superhero motif and applied it to progress. For example, Yacovou will equate a student’s academic or social progress with that of a character’s success, such as a learning milestone being similar to Batman defeating the Joker.

The Teacher of the Year honor is the latest in a series of milestones for Yacovou, who just recently received his sixth year administrator certificate from Southern Connecticut State University. He is also getting married to fiancée Diana Lizcano this summer. As a result of winning the C.E.S. honor, Yacovou is entered for consideration as 2017 Connecticut Teacher of the Year