Rhode Island · School Talk

Rhode Island 2017 Teacher of the Year Dispels Myth That Charter Schools Don’t Serve Kids With Special Needs

If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone make the false claim that charter schools don’t take kids with special needs, I’d be sitting atop a big  pile of money.  But the charter haters in the Ocean State have a small problem with their usual talking points in light of the recent announcement of the 2017 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year. The winner, Nikos Giannopoulos, is a special education teacher at a charter school.

“The reason I remain a teacher today is that nothing I have ever done makes me feel as good as teaching does. I truly believe that the life of a public servant is as much a gift to the servant as it is to the people he is serving. … My greatest contributions and accomplishments as an educator are not awards or accolades. They are the students and artists I have nurtured over the past six years at Beacon Charter.” -Nikos Giannopoulos, 2017 RI Teacher of the Year

Giannopoulos, fondly known around school as Mr. G,  is in his sixth year at Woonsocket’s Beacon Charter School where he teaches special education while co-teaching classes in algebra, chemistry, and film-making. He is also the sponsor and coordinator of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance.

Governor Gina Raimondo was on hand for the surprise announcement and ceremony and had this to say about Giannopoulos:

“His commitment to all students, and in particular to those who have special learning needs, and his work with the Beacon Gay Straight Alliance show me his strong commitment to diversity and to ensuring that everyone at Beacon is treated with respect.”

Mr. Giannopoulos seems to pay no mind to the false assertions about special education and the charter sector. His focus is clearly on kids, especially those who have struggled in a traditional school setting. Part of why kids love him so much is because they feel like he really “gets them.”

And it sure seems like he does.

“This is for anybody who was ever anxious, anyone who ever struggled in math, for anybody who felt more comfortable in an art room than the gym, this is for you guys,” Giannopoulos said at the ceremony.

Congratulations to Beacon Charter School for having not one but two Teachers of the Year since 2013. And thank you to Mr. Giannopoulos for being an unwavering advocate for students.



What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Rhode Island 2017 Teacher of the Year Dispels Myth That Charter Schools Don’t Serve Kids With Special Needs

  1. I do not agree my kids now in middle school and high school just now it has been discovered to be dyslexic after attending k-8 and K-6 at HCS. All the signs were there the writing on the wall even mentioned in a number of conversations. However, never addressed. Blame was placed on these kids! Tore them apart a handful of Charter School teachers knew but could not speak up against the Principle who was also Special ed director. Completely let down. Shame on her

  2. Congratulations to Mr Giannopoulos. And Beacon charter school. I’m so happy for the sixth grade kids that were taught by him. Let’s just say not all teachers are the same and to that note not all charter schools are the same. My kid attended a charter school k thru 8th. He began to struggle in 4th. A smart kid that tested well on state test but began to fail in the classroom. He was constantly told he was lazy and not putting in the effort. There were many red flags and it was even stated in his report card, comments by teachers that he was struggling in writing. We tried time and time again to work with the school suggesting he had a learning disability. After suffering mentally and emotionally for over a year. The school finally tested him. (We had not been using the right words to requesting testing.) He was diagnosed with a “disorder of written language” in other words Dysgraphia. An IEP was written that did not have specific goals, it wasn’t followed and did not serve any purpose. We had so many IEP meetings where my child was raked over the coals, they even accused him of lying and bullying. Both subsequently proved to be untrue. We as parents volunteered at the school helped out in classrooms, were part of the PTA and on the school improvement team. We always thought that the school had our child’s best interest at heart. Only to find out it’s not the case it was always their bottom line. We needed an advocate and to call in RIDE to mediate a meeting. Is such a shame. I know this has not just happens to my child as other parent have spoken to me on the same issue.

    So well done Becon Charter for hiring an awesome teacher who cares.

  3. Some charters do and some don’t. These blanket statements are of course myths, but they don’t originate just because there are “charter haters.’ Look at the UCOA data on special education and “other commitments (excluding the charter tuition payments of course!). They are far from equal on a per pupil basis; in fact, they “other commitments” is almost 17 to 1 for the state average versus charter schools.

    The charters in Washington County are some of the least diverse in terms of race, socio-economic, and special needs; the charters in Providence,perhaps greater.

    And that’s the problem with the charter movement – there is a reason why the recent budget hit those suburban charters and not the urban – because the suburban ones are not serving the highest need students; they are essentially pseudo-private schools so some parents can “get away” from “those kids” in traditional schools (to quote a couple of parents at a charter school meeting who perhaps thought only like minded people were in attendance).

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