VALLEJO (CBS SF) — A special education teacher at Solano Middle School in Vallejo has been named a California Teacher of the Year.

Angelo “Ang” Bracco is one of five teachers statewide recognized by California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson for their dedication and talent in the classroom.

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Bracco has been teaching at Solano Middle School for 14 years and instructs seventh- and eighth-grade special education students. He has also been chair of the school’s Special Education Department for 10 years.

A former police officer, Bracco served with the San Francisco and Concord police departments for 27 years before retiring and pursuing a career in education.

He said many of his students have struggled at other middle schools and that Solano Middle School’s special education program is often their last chance to succeed in the public school system.

“If they struggle, we help them,” Bracco said.

Bracco said he works with his staff to create a positive atmosphere and give the students incentives to succeed. His approach includes bringing the students to his family’s horse ranch.

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He said that spending quality time out in nature is a unique and exciting experience for many of the inner-city students.

Bracco said his students often branch out and take “mainstream,” or general education, classes in addition to special education classes, and know they can turn to him for support if encounter challenges.

Many of the students he works with have families dealing with unemployment or other tough economic situations.

Bracco said he strives to work with students not only to improve their academics, but other aspects of their lives as well.

“They feel safe here,” Bracco said.

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