PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP/WPRI) — A special-education teacher in Woonsocket has been named Rhode Island’s Teacher of the Year.

Nikos Giannopoulos, a special-education teacher and coordinator at Beacon Charter High School for the Arts, received the honor in a surprise ceremony Thursday.

Giannopoulos is the state’s 2017 Teacher of the Year.

He was selected at the end of this school year, but will serve as Teacher of the Year at the beginning of next school year and be a candidate for the national contest for 2017.

Board of Education Chair Barbara Cottam says Giannopoulos helps students do their best in school, especially in difficult subjects.

She says he has innovative ideas and builds trusting relationships with students.

He has taught at Beacon for six years and coordinates the school’s Gay Straight Alliance.

“We know that the students at Beacon love Mr. G, and although he has won a big award today, his greatest awards are his students,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “His commitment to all students, and in particular to those who have special learning needs, and his work with the Beacon Gay Straight Alliance show me his strong commitment to diversity and to ensuring that everyone at Beacon is treated with respect.”