Stamford Public Schools (SPS) announced that Lisa Legato-Howlett was chosen as the 2020-2021 Stamford Teacher of the Year, Emeritus by the SPS Teacher of the Year and Spotlight Award Program committee. Legato-Howlett is a Special Education teacher in the SPS Individuals Achieving Independence program. Due to her recently announced upcoming retirement, she will share her Teacher of the Year title with Toquam Magnet Elementary School Special Education Teacher Barbara Hanauer, who had been the committee’s first runner up. As the SPS Teacher of the Year, Hanauer will automatically become a candidate for the State of Connecticut Teacher of the Year program.
“During college, I decided I wanted a career path that would combine my love of children with behavior analysis and theories of child development,” said Legato-Howlett. “Special education seemed like the perfect fit for me. I've never regretted my decision and can't imagine my life doing anything else. I am so honored to have been chosen for this award.”
Legato-Howlett has spent the past 41 years in a variety of Special Educator positions in the district. She served as a Resource Room co-teacher, a Special Education classroom teacher and spent 20 years serving students with multiple disabilities at Stillmeadow School. For the past six years, Legato-Howlett was instrumental in the development and growth of the Individuals Achieving Independence program, which provides transition services for students with disabilities ages 18-21.
“What a perfect choice Lisa was for Stamford Teacher of the Year,” said SPS Superintendent Dr. Tamu Lucero. “The amazing work that she has done on behalf of students over the years has been truly impactful. Given Lisa’s retirement, I know Barbara’s enthusiasm and commitment to our students makes her an ideal candidate to take over the reins of Teacher of the Year and represent us at the state level. ”
Hanauer has been a teacher for 31 years, 27 in SPS. She began her teaching career in Texas and California. She moved to Stamford some 42 years ago. After taking some time off to raise her children, she returned to education as a paraeducator in Northeast Elementary. She then returned to teaching, serving as a resource teacher, a co-teacher and a support teacher at Stark Elementary. For the past four years, Hanauer has been serving SPS students with learning disabilities as a Special Education teacher at Toquam Magnet Elementary.
“I'm so humbled that out of so many people, I was chosen to be honored as Teacher of the Year in Stamford,” said Hanauer. “Part of the joy of my job is that I get to work with, and learn from, so many talented people who have taught me so much. These past few months I've discovered so much more about my students and the people that I work with: The support, wisdom and teamwork of parents, students and staff have made me realize that I still have a lot to learn. I feel, in some ways, I should be thanking Stamford for giving me the opportunity to do what I love every day.”
“I have heard this question a few times, ’what’s special about special education?’ Well the answer is the teachers,” said SPS Director of Special Education and Related Services Wayne Holland. “Barbara and Lisa have spent their entire careers exemplifying this answer, and their selection as Teachers of the Year are proof. They are dedicated to their craft and help their students turn educational challenges into educational strengths. I am proud to say I’ve seen them in action.”
The 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year Finalists were Stamford High School Science Teacher Saleh Jahangir and Toquam Magnet School Special Education Teacher Diana Pelliccia.
The district plans to honor and celebrate the 2020-2021 Teachers of the Year and finalists, along with the previously announced semi-finalists and Spotlight award winners at a SPEF Excellence in Education Awards event.
The SPS Teacher of the Year process is rigorous. The Teacher of the Year and Spotlight Award Program committee solicited nominations from September through December and evaluated all submissions based on the following criteria: Outstanding Teaching, Exceptional Student Support, Exemplary Community Involvement and Positive Influence on School Culture. From among all submissions received, the committee chose four individuals and one team to be honored with Spotlight Awards, as well as an exclusive group of six to be considered for Teacher of the Year designation.
Those to be considered for Teacher of the Year were required to submit three essays and be interviewed by the committee. Finalists were determined after the interview process and each was required to submit a videotaped lesson.