Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, special education teacher helps students battle disabilities through architecture
July 15, 2016
By: Lisa L. Colangelo
A diverse academic background gave special education teacher Yvon Milien a unique way to connect with his students.
Milien teaches students at the Brooklyn School for Career Development in Prospect Heights math, science, art and social studies by having them re-create architectural sites both famous and ordinary.
And he has no question that his students, who range from age 13 to 21, have the ability to handle the rigorous lessons even though many of the teens have emotional, physical and cognitive disabilities.
“It’s a really challenging job because you never know if they are having a good day or a bad day,” Milien said. “And it takes a lot of patience to draw lines and design a floor plan. But I see a big difference after just a few months.”
Milien’s innovative teaching strategies have earned him a nomination for a Daily News Hometown Heroes in Education award.
The awards recognize outstanding school staffers who make the extra effort for their students every day.
The winners will be selected by a panel of judges and honored at a ceremony in October. Nominations are being accepted through July 22.
Milien came to the U.S. from Haiti in 1991. He studied civil engineering and went on to receive master’s degrees in education, international relations, sociology and public administration.
He started teaching 14 years ago as a temporary job and never left.
“Everybody keeps asking me why I stay in teaching,” said Milien. “I wanted to do something to give back to the community.”
He admits students can be intimidated at first, but usually relax when they realize the classwork also allows them to use their imagination.
Along the way, they are strengthening language skills and putting geometry lessons to use.
he resulting artwork includes models of The Brooklyn Art Gallery, a skyscraper in Dubai and a student’s dream home.
Another project challenged students to envision renovations to Brizzi Playground in Borough Park. While they drafted plans for more trees and swings, students discussed the meaning of community — a part of their social studies curriculum.
“I try to encourage them and give them hope,” Milien said. “And then that moment when you see them get it — the ‘aha’ moment — that makes me feel very fulfilled.”