St. Vrain Valley School District is pleased to welcome Benjamin Yamato to the district as an assistant director of special education. Yamato will support Lyons, Mead and Skyline feeders K-8.
Yamato earned his Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. He then went to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and received his Associate of Occupational Studies (AOS) in culinary arts. After he turned thirty, he went back to graduate school at University of Colorado-Denver and obtained his educational specialist degree in school psychology. Finally, he obtained his principal license through the Ritchie program at The University of Denver.
Yamato brings 12 years of experience in public education. He most recently worked at Adams 12 Five Star Schools as a special education coordinator, where he supported Child Find and Early Childhood Education. Prior to that role, he was the district mental health specialist, supporting psychologists and social workers.
His professional journey in education began as a school psychologist in a diverse elementary school where he fell in love with partnering with families and teams. “From my first days as a school psychologist, I’ve loved collaborating with teams who are seeking creative ways to support students who are experiencing barriers in their learning. In these situations, seeking different perspectives always leads to better outcomes, and I love hearing passionate professionals share their particular lens with the larger group,” Yamato shared.
Some of the skills Yamato hopes to bring to his new position is to embrace norms of collaboration that value listening and pausing. “I see so much great work being done to support students and families, and I hope to bring a systems approach to solving problems that increases efficiency and our capacity to flexibly support diverse student needs. Nothing makes me happier than to be a part of discussions that take difficult situations and focus on reducing barriers to student learning,” Yamato said.
Yamato sees the importance of having an equity driven approach to problem-solving. “In my past role as special education coordinator in Child Find, we created systems that would reduce barriers between preschool-aged students and high-quality education. These included a sliding scale for tuition, increased responsiveness and communication for families in the free Colorado Preschool Program, and timely evaluation and placement processes in Child Find.”
In addition to his background in education, Yamato is an experienced chef who specialized in French and Indian cuisine. He spent his twenties as a chef in Michigan, New York, France, and Colorado, and has benefited from the lessons of those restaurant days. “It’s important to get to know and value everyone in the system. From the dishwasher to the owner, every person is a key part of the system,” Yamato said.
Outside of work, Yamato enjoys spending time with his wife, Janie, and their two boys (Wilson, 8 and Hobbes, 6). Yamato and his family make the most of the Colorado outdoors by camping in the summertime at their favorite destination in Ouray in the San Juan Mountains, and skiing in the winter in Breckenridge. He also loves cooking with his family and traveling to Mexico.