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Special-education teacher named 2017 R.I. Teacher of the Year

WOONSOCKET - In a surprise ceremony today (June 9), Nikos Giannopoulos, a special-education teacher and coordinator at the Beacon Charter High School for the Arts, was named the 2017 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year.

Mr. Giannopoulos, who has taught at Beacon for the past six years, co-teaches classes in algebra, chemistry, and filmmaking. Mr. G, as he is known at Beacon, is also responsible for creating transition plans and evaluations for the students at Beacon with special learning needs, and he is the sponsor and coordinator the Gay Straight Alliance at the school.

“We know that the students at Beacon love Mr. G, and although he has won a big award today, his greatest awards are his students,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “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. We’ll all be rooting for Mr. G as he becomes our candidate for National Teacher of the Year.”

“It is a pleasure to honor our newest Teacher of the Year, Nikos Giannopoulos, for his commitment to helping students do their best in school, especially in difficult subject areas, and for his kindness and caring,” said Board of Education Chair Barbara S. Cottam. “Through such innovative ideas as the Math Autobiography Project, Mr. G builds trusting and sharing relationships with his students, which is a great foundation for learning. The students at Beacon are fortunate to have Mr. G as one of their teachers, and we are fortunate that he will represent Rhode Island as the 2017 Teacher of the Year.”

“As we focus on coursework that is rigorous and relevant and on the importance of engaging students in challenging courses, I am glad that we have chosen as our Teacher of the Year an educator with such a diverse set of interests and skills,” said Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Along with his responsibilities as a special-education transition coordinator, Nikos Giannopoulos teaches a wide range of courses, covering the arts, science, and mathematics. Additionally, as a sponsor of the Gay Straight Alliance at Beacon, he is committed to diversity and to creating a safe and secure learning environment for all. He is an excellent choice as the 2017 Teacher of the Year.”

Mr. Giannopoulos, who was raised in Pennsylvania and lives in Providence, holds a bachelor’s degree in French and the History of Art and Architecture from the University of Pittsburgh. He earned his teacher certification in Secondary Special Education and Secondary English as a Rhode Island Teaching Fellow through the New Teacher Project. 

In his Teacher of the Year application, Mr. Giannopoulos wrote: “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.”

In support of his application, one of his colleagues noted: “Nikos is as humble as he is effective, and, though he would never say it, he is without doubt the Beacon teacher who has had the most significant impact on students’ lives.”

Mr. Giannopoulos now becomes a candidate for National Teacher of the Year, to be announced in April 2017.