New Special Ed Teachers Still Enjoy Work During Remote Learning


Contributed by Nick Lucatino

First-year special education teacher Nick Lucatino

Phoebe Criscuolo, Reporter

WOODBURY — In addition to having two new teachers from the middle school, Nonnewaug also has two new special education teachers this year — Matthew Kayser and Nick Lucatino. They recently talked about what made them come to Nonnewaug, difficulties with teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the enjoyable parts of teaching. 

What made you want to come to Nonnewaug?

Lucatino: Over the summer, I was very excited to accept a position as a special education teacher at NHS. I was most interested in being able to support students from a variety of different towns and backgrounds. As a special education teacher at NHS, part of my job is collaborating with student’s home districts. That is something that I wouldn’t get to do in other schools. 

Kayser: I was transferred to Nonnewaug from Mitchell Elementary School. At first I was worried, thinking that telling teenagers to do their work would be impossible, but I was pleasantly surprised and ended up liking it way more than I thought.

How long have you been teaching?

Lucatino: This is my first year of teaching! Last spring I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in comprehensive special education (K-12) from Southern Connecticut State University. Before coming to NHS, I worked as a paraprofessional in Region 15 and student taught at Pomperaug High School. 

Kayser: Mitchell was my first teaching job — I was at the elementary school for three years as a paraprofessional, and this is now my fourth year at Nonnewaug, but my first year as a full-time special education teacher.

Did you always want to become a teacher or was there something else on your mind?

Lucatino: Since I was young, I have always wanted to be a teacher. Growing up, there were many teachers I looked up to. I hope to be as supportive and caring as them. 

Kayser: No, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I looked into sports reporting and law. I got a job as a substitute teacher when I moved back to Connecticut just because I needed money and ended up really liking it. 

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

Lucatino: My favorite part about teaching is seeing students find success. It is so rewarding to be able to watch a student struggle with a concept or skill and eventually gain the confidence and skills to be successful. 

Kayser: I have always liked to help people; it took me a while to realize that. I like the subjects, too — I think science and history are very interesting. Mostly, though, I like meeting the students. There are some very interesting people here at Nonnewaug and it’s really cool to see how much students grow up in a very short time. Also I like having summers off, not gonna lie.

Is trying to teach now any difficult because of COVID?

Lucatino: Teaching is very different this year. Though there are challenges, I am glad to be able to teach and see my students. 

Kayser: It’s definitely tougher, and there is less student interaction and I don’t get to have many off-topic, side conversations, which are usually the most fun. The most frustrating part last year was trying to teach math. There were several times where I spent an hour making notes for a student who needed help and at the end they were still confused. I knew if I could just stand next to them with a piece of paper and a pencil I could explain it to them in less than five minutes. We’ve caught up a bit in terms of technology, so it’s better this year.  

Why did you choose to work in the special education field?

Lucatino: While I was in high school, I volunteered in a program for students with significant disabilities. During this experience, I fell in love with the field of special education and knew that I wanted to support students with disabilities. 

Kayser: I have a couple family members and friends with disabilities. I find it very interesting, as well — some of the smartest people I have ever met have autism, but they sometimes have difficulty showing their intelligence, skills, and strengths to others.