Gavin has been surrounded by teachers at home as well as at multiple learning facilities since he was diagnosed with ASD at the age of 2. We can honestly say that we’ve been beyond lucky that all our experiences, with the facilities we’ve chosen, have been positive and the worst I can say is that there were just a couple times that G didn’t “click” with someone. That’s not always the case and we know G has a couple guardian angels looking over him when it comes to all this. But there have been a few that just stand out above it all. The connect, they understand and reach G and get so much out of him. This is a story of one of the very best!!!
COVID changed our world, right? Truly changed forever. Everyday life from home and school to how business functions and then the horrible divides in our world over how we deal with this disease and what were the right moves as it progressed. It was just too much for us all. Keeping our home in order would be a handful no matter what but, adding COVID on top of ASD and well, that’s just a recipe for trouble. Now, can you imagine trying to make it work for about a half dozen special needs kids? CRAZY! That’s where this begins.
Gavin began the year at a brand-new school in a K-1 classroom. He did very well even with the restrictions and quickly settled into his new surroundings. Everything was very good for him and for us as his caregivers, we were comfortable and knew we were on to something great. It wasn’t perfect but, the course corrections made a ton of difference! The year progressed very well with Gavin showing excellent progress and growth in his new home. Early in May we received an email from an administrator at his school, Village Elementary in Hilton NY. The note would inform us that G’s teacher, Katie Caprino, was nominated for Teacher of the year! In our district as with most, this is a very big deal. Mrs Caprino was not aware she was nominated until today, the day before school begins at a kickoff gathering for the district. As part of the nomination, we were asked if we’d consider writing a letter about Gavin’s year with her. Of course, we’d love to do so! Also asked were school staff members and I believe other parents too.
So, I began with brainstorming about the year that was nearly finished, the relationship we all had with Mrs Caprino and thinking about specific examples I could provide the administration that oversaw choosing the winner. When you sit down and force yourself to take inventory about most anything you’d be amazed with what you find. As special needs parents we’re always ready for the next challenge in our path but to put this together it became evident that any challenge we had regarding G and school were addressed by Mrs Caprino and her team as if Gavin was their own flesh and blood. I could write it all again, but thought I’d share exactly what was sent to the district for their review. Hopefully Mrs Caprino is ok with that as we really want the world to read how we feel sending G on that bus every morning.
May 10, 2022
Hilton Central Schools
Teacher of the Year Committee
Dear Esteemed Members:
We truly appreciate you taking the time to review our letter of support and heartfelt nomination for a very special member of the Hilton Community. With no hesitation or second thought we would ask you to consider Mrs. Katie Carpino as the 2022 Teacher of the Year! We know that while there are many amazing team members to consider that you need look no further than Katie and the team she has assembled.
Our son Gavin is in his first year with Katie at Village Elementary. He was diagnosed as autistic at 2 years old and is a non-verbal member of Katie’s classroom. Obviously, any change for Gavin is difficult and probably even harder on us but this year has been nothing less than amazing for his first year in the school! When you consider COVID, staffing and all the usual challenges that she endures as a special education teacher you’d give her a pass if things were off, I’m sure. But Katie and the whole staff truly are world class and the impact they have on our boy is hard to articulate. It’s easy to start out a year excited and driven and easy to taper off as the year goes on but Katie has kept her foot on the gas pedal all year long! I’d love to give you some examples of how Katie has made a difference for Gavin this entire year for your consumption and consideration.
A trigger word in our modern world is communication, I think we can all agree on this. We hear it daily from our elected officials to parents to employers and even from our family members as to how critical effective communication is. Well, from day 1 Katie has ensured we always know what’s up with Gavin and everything that touches him from the time his feet hit the bus at 7:45am until 3:30pm when they come back down on our driveway. She’s made it her business and purpose to ensure his day is positive on every move. Her use of his diary never misses a day or a detail. Her use of the Remind app for all parents, ensuring we feel part of a community wasn’t lost and was never forgotten. We all look forward to getting our weekly recap and photos of all the kids in Gavin’s class. When we asked if a couple members of Gavin’s circle could be included, Katie made sure it happened and has welcomed them with open arms! When we’ve asked her to interact with Gavin’s doctors and his team of home instructors it’s done without hesitation or question. These critical moments aren’t lost, and I believe that as part of Gavin’s team, she’s helped us make amazing strides this year by communicating with anyone we as his parents feel important.
The ball is always bouncing in Gavin’s life and sometimes we must be very creative to get it to stop for a few moments and get some focus. Well, Katie has been very creative on many levels. Starting with the bus…. Gavin really struggled on the bus at times this year. With her involvement, input, and assistance we’ve found ways to help him enjoy his ride while being safe and happy. Katie without asking, assembled materials including books, toys, and other items to help make his ride as perfect as possible. When Gavin who is an elopement risk was getting lose on the bus, she was right there with suggestions and phone calls between all parties making sure he was safe and able to continue to ride with his friends. Gavin has at home services in the form of Advanced Behavioral Assessment (ABA) teachers. These lessons are geared to help Gavin with numerous life skills from eating and toilet training to being more aware in public. When the discussion came up about how we can work together with Gavin’s classroom team Katie encouraged the collaboration and in the end was more than willing to allow Gavin’s ABA instructors to push into the classroom during some down time in his day! This, this is something few have heard of, and she made this rare opportunity happen! I can’t tell you how amazing it is to have this unheard-of collaboration and level of creativity on Gavin’s team!
Dedication for Katie isn’t to her job, I’m sorry to say. Katie is dedicated to her families, ALL of us. We know all teachers are dedicated to their craft and the kiddos, so please, don’t misunderstand what we’re saying but, she is always there for us. Even when she doesn’t need to be. Little victories are big and sometimes too long between for Gavin and many of his classmates. It’s a hard truth we’ve come to deal with but, every day we get up and we believe. We believe it’s the day to move a mountain. Well, when that mountain moves a bit, we want to shout it from the rooftops. Katie as mentioned before always keeps lines of communication open and we do from time to time send her great news or a story that “Katie will love to hear” …. We know it’s selfish of us, especially on a Sunday or 9:00 at night, but Katie is always on that chain of announcements for the recent guess what Gavin just did story. In return, Katie always, and we mean every single time responds with love and genuine care for being included in Gavin’s world no matter where in the world she is at that moment. No one can ask for this, you as administrators can’t expect it, you can’t teach it and as parents, we could never put a value high enough on it. Her dedication, actually, her genuine love for our kiddos is nothing less than breath taking. We can assure you of this fact without any doubt!
We can go on and on about the difference Katie makes in the lives of these special children. I’m sure the other families have even more creative and one-of-a-kind solutions to help their kids make the most of their time at Village Elementary but I’m not really sure you need even more of our bragging about Katie. She is truly a treasure for everyone involved.
We would like to again thank all of you for this wonderful program. How you’ll ever choose one candidate for this high honor, we really don’t know. But, when you think about this we hope you’ll put Gavin in your mind and more importantly, your heart. A child that can’t yet speak like most kiddos but has this wonderful team of people that bring out his voice through their guidance and love on a daily basis is inspiring and breathtaking The common thread that ties all of them together for the these special people is Katie! We’re so happy that Gavin will have another year in her classroom and sincerely hope when we begin the next school year her door will read “2022 Teacher of the Year, Katie Caprino – Special Education Muse”
Thank you for your consideration and time. We wish you all the very best. And thank you for your service to our community.
David and Joreen Varecka.
So, our story here has been a long one and school starts in just a few hours. We’re all very excited about the start of the year and can’t wait to see what it brings for Gavin and his classmates. As they all walk into that room, they will be lucky enough to walk into the room of the Hilton Schools Teacher of the Year!!!!!! Thank you Mrs Caprino! You got exactly what you deserved and we’re all so happy to be here with you to see it happen.