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.