As we enter our 100th year of leading special education, the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is recognizing exceptional educators from around the world who have shown a passion, dedication, and commitment to making a difference in the lives of the students who they teach. Hear from teachers about their personal experiences working in the field, and get inspired to make your own impact this year.
Since 1984 CEC has honored members who currently provide instruction to students with exceptionalities and are outstanding members of the profession. The Teacher of the Year Award is given every year to a CEC member teacher whose work exemplifies the best in special education teaching and reflects significant, documented positive outcomes for students, continued professional development, and the highest standards of educational quality.
Take a look at former CEC Teachers of the Year and see where they are now.
What is your current role?
My name is Kathy Boisvert and I received my doctorate in Health and Behavior Studies from Teachers College, Columbia University. I am an Early Intervention Facilitator and Integrated Preschool Teacher for Blackstone-Millville Regional Public Schools. In addition, I have taught over 20 courses at the University of Massachusetts Boston, 10 courses at Fisher College, and I just became a member of the Worcester State University team.
During the summer months of 2014-2018, I was an International Educational Consultant for “The Hope Foundation for Autism Awareness.” During the summer months of 2008-2010, I was a "WorldTeach" Volunteer for South Africa. In 2012 and 2013, I returned to South Africa as a Program Assistant for "WorldTeach" where I focused on supporting the volunteers, as well as the local learners. I found working in unfamiliar school settings and environments to be very challenging but even more rewarding and I still do!
How has the CEC Teacher of the Year Award had an impact on your career and/or how has it built upon your leadership in CEC?
I have to say that being awarded the 2016 Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Teacher of the Year was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. I was selected as the CEC Teacher of the Year in January. In May 2016, I was invited to the “The White House Event to Honor Great Educators.” President Obama honored the National Teacher of the Year alongside great educators from across the country. As part of the event, the President lifted up the role those great educators have played in improving our education system over the past several years while highlighting the progress we have made over the years he was in office. Representing the CEC at that event made me so proud to be an educator of children with exceptionalities. I felt like we were being held up to the same standards of the general education teachers and our work was judged to be just as essential and significant.
The award also rejuvenated my passion to share my knowledge with educators who are just beginning their career in education, especially those who will be working with children with dual sensory impairments. It led me to develop a couple of articles for the Visual Impairment and Deafblind Education (VIDBE) Quarterly where I was able to share some of the strategies I used when I was working with children with dual sensory impairments earlier in my career.
I have continued my direct involvement with the CEC by serving as The Honors Committee Awards Chair. This has been an amazing opportunity to share my experiences with others, as well as honor those whose work and dedication make the CEC, along with the students and families we resent, a voice to be heard on a national and global stage.
Watch the Video:
What was most memorable to you about your experience in CEC and/or in education?
My most memorable teaching experience is one that I can recall vividly, even though it occurred more than 20 years ago. I was working as a new Teacher of Visually Impaired (TVI) in New York. I had a young child who was Deafblind and we were working on developing a formal system of communication for her. I remember we had been introducing tangible symbols to her for months with little to no success. I also remember feeling as though I was in over-my-head and that she would be much better off with a teacher who had more experience.
One day, she came into my therapy room but I was still setting up the session. I had left multiple items on the table when she came over and scanned the items. She picked up one of the items, turned around, and then began heading out the door. She crossed the hall and began to trail away from my room. I looked down at the table and realized she had chosen the tennis ball cue that we used to represent the gym and she was heading that way.
I stood in the hall and began to cry. I realize at that moment that I may not be the most experienced teacher in the world but kids really need dedication and persistence, not perfection. My principal at the time, Frank Simpson, asked me what was wrong. I told him to look at her hand and he understood. He quietly told me to take a moment to just pause and take it all in because I would remember this moment for the rest of my life. He was right!!!
What advice do you have for early career teachers?
My advice for new teachers would echo the best advice I received when I was younger, which is to enjoy every step of the way because each new step can take you in a direction that you never dared dream. Remember, we do not ask out students to be perfect and they do not expect that of us either!
You have what it takes to be a great educator…because you already are!!!
CEC has directly influenced my professional development throughout my career. As a young doctoral student back in 2000, I presented for the first time at the New York State CEC Conference. When I presented at the CEC Conference & Expo in 2021, I reflected on how important this organization has been to my ongoing development and understanding of current issues and methodologies for over 20 years.
From being the new educator with countless questions, to becoming the more experienced educator that was able to offer some suggestions on how to answer some of those questions. CEC has been there as a guiding force, a place of reference for best practices, and a community that has taught me how to work together with other practitioners and family members to better the lives of children with exceptionalities.