Nicholas Pacelli is a behavior intervention teacher and chair of the Special Education Department at Washington Community High School, where he has been making a difference for more than a decade. He works with students, parents and colleagues to provide the best learning environment for students with disabilities, while coordinating a highly successful mentoring program for at-risk students.
In an effort to improve graduation rates, Pacelli decided to get personally involved. The result of his vision launched in the spring of 2014. IMPACT (Inspire, Motivate, Pride, Achievement, Commit, Trust) provides at-risk students with the skills and support they need to achieve success in school and in their communities—and has led to dramatic improvements in behavior, attendance and academics.
Through IMPACT, Pacelli has brought his students into the heart of volunteerism. Under his direction, they have worked on a wide range of community service projects, from mending fence posts and helping with an Easter egg hunt at Wildlife Prairie Park, to assisting cleanup efforts after the Washington tornado, to wrapping Christmas presents for seniors at Neighborhood House and making fleece blankets for critically ill children.
His students have painted the Washington American Legion Post 100, worked on anti-bullying presentations, attended a leadership conference in Springfield and toured Children’s Hospital of Illinois—building their confidence and giving them a taste of their community. In February, they hosted a community event of their own—a Senior Citizen Luau, with the students handling the planning, marketing and setup—while a number of additional projects are ongoing.
Besides dramatically improving graduation rates, the support system provided by IMPACT has led to a 50-percent drop in failing grades, a 16-percent improvement in attendance and a 62-percent drop in behavior referrals. Having gone above and beyond the scope of his job responsibilities, Pacelli earned the Excellence in Education award in 2014. He also serves as the high school varsity assistant baseball coach, as well as head coach of the Beverly Manor Junior High School baseball team. iBi