One of Carlos Reyes-Couvertier’s favorite compliments came from a student who told him: “You were tough, but I really appreciate it.”
Reyes-Couvertier recalled that compliment Monday night as the Board of Education announced that it has chosen him as New Haven’s 2017 Teacher of the Year.
The student said his approach gave her the drive to keep learning, he recalled.
Colleagues and bosses added many more compliments at a reception and ceremony celebrating his teacher of the year award at Monday evening’s Board of Education meeting at Beecher School. They said that from his start as a paraprofessional at Celentano Magnet School, Carlos Reyes-Couvertier has been a role model for children these past 20 years.
They noted that Reyes-Couvertier stands in as a father figure at Strong 21st Century Communications Magnet and Lab School, as a translator during principal-parent meetings and as a tutor outside of school hours.
“His philosophy of education is that when all stakeholders — including families — are respectfully included, all children can learn and grow to their individual potential,” Interim Superintendent Reggie Mayo said.
Reyes-Couvertier hails from a family of educators. His mother was once his Spanish teacher, and his wife is a library media specialist at Davis Street Arts & Academics Interdistrict Magnet School. He currently teaches first-graders in one of three bilingual classrooms at Strong School.
In his time as a paraprofessional, working in special education, he realized he wanted to go back to school. That pushed him into teaching through a district program that allowed him to complete a degree at Southern Connecticut State University. Now he considers his work within New Haven’s Spanish-speaking communities to be among his greatest accomplishments to date.
As a teacher for a dozen years, Reyes-Couvertier sets high standards: Sure, kids can have fun. But they also have to get the work for the day done, whether that’s writing and phonics in the morning or math and science in the afternoon.
Those standards are applicable whether in Spanish or English, Strong School Principal Susan DeNicola said. About half of the school’s students are Hispanic, she added, noting that Reyes-Couvertier also helps keep parents in the loop even after students have left his classroom.
The countless hours Reyes-Couvertier has put outside of the classroom manifest his volunteer work at Vineyard Christian Fellowship and after-school tutoring for students in both English and Spanish.
Maybe the tutoring is just a plan to get a free meal, joked his assistant principal, George Flanagan — because Reyes-Couvertier sacrifices his own time in the evenings to tutor students at their own homes if they have transportation conflicts.
One of Strong School’s other bilingual teachers — Oscaima Ovalles, who took the reins of the kindergarten class from Reyes-Couvertier — claims him as a mentor, saying this veteran teacher has helped foster her own love for the profession.
Twins Abby and Eric, 6, joined their father Monday evening to celebrate his achievement, while Reyes-Couvertier’s wife, Lucia Rafala, commended his devotion to all children.
He’s not letting the award get to his head, as DeNicola observed. His reaction to the accolade in his own words? “Scared,” he said.
“This is not just my moment,” Reyes-Couvertier said. “It is all of our moments. It is a celebration of all we do as teachers and parents to ensure the success of our children.”