WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Two teachers in Waterbury are proving educators can have an impact on their students far beyond the classroom. 

Jenna and Tim Riccio are teachers at Walsh Elementary School in Waterbury. When 10-year-old Nate transferred into their class in 2018, they realized he had medical needs and wanted to make sure he had ample support at school and at home.

Nate has sickle cell anemia, an incurable disease affecting the shape of red blood cells that blocks the body’s blood flow, but he’s learning to thrive with his condition.   

Nate has two prosthetic legs and had to have his left leg amputated as well as part of his right hand and ear.

“It’s kind of like experimenting with different things. I always try to be a little independent with myself,” Nate said. 

Jenna and Tim Riccio said Nate was their student when he had to have emergency surgery in 2019. They wanted to support him because he was in foster care, and his situation at home wasn’t the best fit for his medical needs. 

“It was heartbreaking to see the kind of pain he was in,” Tim Riccio said.

That’s when they decided to become superheroes and adopt their student.

Jenna, Tim and Nate pose in superhero costumes (CREDIT: The Riccio Family)

“Why wouldn’t it be me? I couldn’t say no and then just say, ‘oh, I hope he’s going to be alright. I hope this works out,’” Jenna Riccio said.

“We knew how hard it would [be] – but we knew how much we could be there for him. It felt like we’re the people for this job,” Tim Riccio said.  

Since then, Nate’s served as ring bearer at Tim and Jenna’s wedding. He has spent each holiday and birthday with his adoptive parents and is living life like a king.

Nate poses with his crown (CREDIT: The Riccio Family)

The Riccio’s officially adopted Nate last fall.

“Now that it’s official it’s like the cherry on top,” Jenna Riccio.

“I love it! It’s great! I feel really lucky that I got to have them as my adoptive parents,” Nate said.

Nate says he keeps in contact with his biological brother, proudly wearing this necklace of them and now he’s a big brother himself.

“It feels a little bit more better knowing that I have somebody there with me,” Nate said.

Nate has a message for other children in foster care.

“I just want to say don’t be scared. It will all end up great,” he said.

Nate wants to be an actor when he grows up. His favorite subjects in school are math and science, and he loves soccer. 

Jenna and Tim say Nate will have more surgeries in the future until he’s fully grown, but as long as they stay on top of his medications and doctors’ visits, his sickle cell anemia will be manageable. 

The Ricco’s said they’ve taught students in the DCF system before. They always considered adoption as a possibility but had never pursued it before they met Nate.

The Ricco’s are encouraging anyone with room in their hearts and homes to consider adoption to help a child in need.