Oak Park teacher up for national Teacher of the Year title

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SARASOTA, FLA. - Helen Pastore is a special education teacher who works with high school and adult students at Oak Park School. Part of her job includes teaching students how to function in the community, live independently and secure jobs.

“Being here, at a center day school, is for me the most rewarding opportunity to work with some of our best students in the county if not the state,” Pastore told ABC 7.

Pastore was an education major in college but went into the financial services industry in Connecticut not long after graduation.

“About nine years ago we moved to Florida and I decided that my long held dream of being a teacher should be a reality.”

She applied for and received a job in special education at Oak Park School. This past year, her peers recognized her hard work, love and passion for teaching special education and nominated her for Teacher of the Year with the Florida Council For Exception Children. Pastore won the title during this years state conference during October in St. Petersburg.

“I find that being welcomed by my peers in such a specialized field of education is extremely exciting and gives me an opportunity to meet other colleagues in the state who also teach special education students.”

Pastore will now represent Florida and compete for the national teacher of the year title. She plans to use the honor as a stepping-stone for reaching her goal of improving the quality of life of special education students.

“The opportunity for me is to engage with other professionals who I might not otherwise meet and I obviously will hopefully bring to the table things that we are doing here in Sarasota that can enrich their programs for their students.”

Pastore will compete for the national Teacher of the Year title at the Council for Exceptional Children Convention and Expo scheduled for April 8-11, 2015 in San Diego.

In December she will receive her Master of Arts in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Severe Intellectual Disabilities from the University of South Florida on December 14. She plans to engage curriculum development at Oak Park School for students as well as enhancing staff development.