A Connecticut high school teacher is being recognized for her “outstanding and innovative” work in the classroom.

High Road School of Hartford teacher Rachael Chatel was named as the first Teacher of the Year by Specialized Education Services, Inc. (SESI).

The private school works with special education students ages 15 to 21 facing social, emotional, and behavioral challenges that can impede success in a traditional classroom setting.

Nationwide, SESI works with more than 7,000 students in over 600 school districts.

Chatel won the top honor for going “above and beyond for her students and working to engage families in meaningful ways to support each child’s development,” said Jeff Cohen, CEO of SESI’s parent company, FullBloom.

Since joining the school in 2020, Chatel has gained a reputation as someone who collaborates with fellow teachers, families, and district partners to ensure that students receive the support they need to succeed both in and out of the classroom, according to SESI.

She recently co-developed an app called Fun Banking that teaches students how to manage money and a checking account. Chatel said it’s been a hit with students, who enjoy the sense of independence that comes from not having to wait for an adult for help.

“My philosophy of learning and education stems from my own personal experiences and my background in psychology, that a student is not ready to learn until they feel safe and included,” Chatel said.

She called her Teacher of the Year award an incredible honor.

“I love to be creative, to use technology, and to personalize whatever I can so that all my students feel they are valued and included,” Chatel said.

“Teaching is my life’s passion and this award helps me recognize just how my work is appreciated by my colleagues at the High Road School of Hartford and Specialized Education Services, Inc.”