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Candie Capen was honored as the Paraeducator of the Year at the Montana Office of Public Instruction’s Montana Council for Exceptional Children Conference awards in Helena, Feb. 28.

Capen, a paraeducator for Special Education at Victor School for eight years, was also honored during the Victor School Elementary Ethos Assembly on Monday afternoon.

Capen said the receiving the award was humbling.

“It is very nice to have my work acknowledged,” she said. “Helena was a great experience.”

Martha Jaquith, director of Special Education at Victor, said Capen is “an incredible teacher.”

“She is the best paraeducator I’ve ever known,” Jaquith said. “She is incredibly talented, works well with the kids and can teach kids to read that everybody else just can’t figure out how to teach. She is well deserving of this award.”

The award is called the “Teri Fisk Paraeducator of the Year” to honor the educator who was instrumental in pressing for professional development for paraeducators.

“It was her lifelong mission to make sure not just the teachers but that paraprofessionals also received professional development and continuing education so they can be better in their field,” Jaquith said.

Capen said the staff, administration and students at Victor are great.

“The kids are the reason I’m here,” she said.

At the Victor School Elementary Ethos Assembly on Monday, Capen was greeted by signs, banners and cheers from over 100 students. They all watched the prerecorded video of the awards ceremony in Helena.

Jaquith asked students to raise their hands if they had received teaching from Capen and most hands went up. About half of the students presented Capen with a handmade thank you card and a hug.

Vicky Angyus, occupational therapist at Victor Schools, said she has worked for 34-years in the Bitterroot Valley Coop and Capen “stands out as one of the best.”

“Children seem to light up when they are with Candie,” Angyus said. “She engages them with fun and interesting activities to help them with their lessons. She praises and encourages them, keeping them motivated when challenges arise.”

Angyus said that she and Capen collaborate often, especially for students with a variety of disabilities.

“I have seen Candie adapt and design activities appropriate for each student,” Angyus said. “She continues to research and bring fresh ideas to the classroom, creating a stimulating environment for students and staff.”

Victor Superintendent Lance Pearson has worked with Capen for eight years and said she is “an amazing person.”

“Ms. Capen is perhaps the nicest person I have ever had the honor of working with in my long career,” Pearson said. “She is always kind, takes initiative, communicates effectively with everyone and truly understands her role as a paraprofessional in our organization.”

Capen said individualized instruction is key to education and that she has adapted and customized lessons for many students over the years. Prior to her employment at Victor School, Capen worked as a para at the Deaf and Blind School in Great Fall for 12 years and was a one-on-one para at an elementary school in Colorado Springs for four years. 

“It is important to figure out what works,” she said. “It is different for every kid because each kid learns a different way.”