Council for Exceptional Children - Yes I Can Awards

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) - York Region Chapter #543

2023 Yes I Can! Awards



In York Region, a joint CEC Yes I Can Awards Ceremony is held each spring with the York Region District School Board, York  Catholic District School Board and the Ontario Council for Exceptional Children. Together we celebrate the accomplishments of students, while recognizing the educators, staff and parents who teach, support and inspire students with exceptionalities.

The Yes I Can Awards honour children and youth with exceptionalities who shine. CEC has recognized the accomplishments of thousands of students since the program started in 1982. Every year, teachers, support staff and administrators are invited to nominate students with special education needs who have demonstrated outstanding growth in the areas of the CEC International categories of:

  • Academics
  • Arts
  • Athletics
  • School and Community Activities
  • Self-Advocacy
  • Technology
  • Transition to Work / Vocational Training / Independent Living

The Council for Exceptional Children also recognizes educators, parents and businesses, agencies or community organizations who have given outstanding service to the CEC or directly to exceptional children and youth.  The adult award categories include:

  • Business/Agency/Community Organization Award
  • Educational Leader of the Year
  • Paraprofessional of the Year Award
  • Parent Award
  • President's Award
  • Teacher of the Year Award

Additionally, the York Region Chapter #543 nominates students and adults for a Provincial Yes I Can Award presented by the Ontario Council for Exceptional Children at their Annual Special Education Conference.  For more information about the Ontario Council for Exceptional Children or the awards process or past recipients, please visit the Ontario Council for Exceptional Children webpage


2023 Yes I Can! Award Recipients

On Wednesday, May 10, 2023, the CEC York Region Chapter hosted its annual awards ceremony! We were thrilled to celebrate all the outstanding students, parents, teachers, education staff and businesses with our 2023 Yes I Can Awards ceremony. With over 700 attendees, we presented awards to 170 students and 12 adults.  Please see below for highlights of this year's YRDSB adult award recipients.

Over the course of his 31 year career, in many roles across multiple school boards, Paul has demonstrated his commitment to championing the full participation of individuals with exceptionalities and his commitment has been felt by so many.  Paul is a hands-on leader who is visible at numerous community events that support children, youth and adults with exceptionalities.  He walks his values and we can earnestly say that his life is his message; that message is one of inclusion, access and agency for all.

Paul Woods

Lori Higgins, currently a Principal and in the role as Student Services Coordinator, advocates for the needs of all students with grace, kindness, and conviction. Lori applies her experiences as a classroom teacher, school principal and seconded Ministry of Education professional to her everyday work in the service of students and families. She is an endless source of knowledge and keeps student well-being and learning at the core of everything she does. 

Lori Higgins

Jaimie Kochberg-Ziv is an exceptional educator whose students excel because of her commitment to the well-being and achievement of exceptional pupils. As a Special Education Resource Teacher, she personifies excellence through the genuine, caring and dynamic relationships she cultivates with every student. She applies professional expertise to create an inclusive classroom learning environment that centers student identities, strengths and needs to lead responsive and intentional learning opportunities. 

Jamie Ziv

Tammy Richardson is an Intensive Support Worker at Mount Albert Public School. Her dedication to students is demonstrated in so many ways. As the equity designate, she is an advocate for equity, inclusion and accessibility. She reflects on and challenges current school and classroom practices to ensure they reflect students’ strengths, needs and identities. She ensures students in the community class are receiving meaningful programming and support, and sets high standards for every student. 

Tammy Richardson

Ntsiki is a parent that does it all; and then some. She is currently a student herself while navigating life with 3 children including her 8 year old autistic daughter. Despite Ntsiki’s busy life, you will always see her smiling and full of energy. She works collaboratively with the school team, ABA center and Kinark to ensure consistency amongst strategies and resources throughout all of her daughter’s environments. Ntsiki fosters a growth mindset and inspires those around her to do the same. She looks at all students with exceptionalities holistically - she sees their strengths and superpowers.

Ntsiki Mshayisa

Mike Mazzone, the owner of FreshCo at Major Mackenzie and Weston Road, and the employees at FreshCo provide a welcoming and inclusive experience for all students. At FreshCo, students are given many opportunities to learn different skills and increase their independence and self-confidence. FreshCo is an extremely busy store; however, each day they always make time to support and teach the students when they come in for work experience.

Mike and two FreshCo employees