Third-grade Carmel Elementary teacher Renee White was named Carmel Clay Schools’ Stephen A. Backer Teacher of the Year at a surprise ceremony early last week.
“It was a complete surprise,” White said. “I hadn’t realized that I had been recommended or that I was even in the running for it.”
During what White had been told was a staff meeting last Monday, faculty and administration made the big announcement. Dr. Jeff Swensson, CCS superintendent, and Susan Backer, widow of Stephen Backer, personally attended to show their support for White. Other members of the faculty had informed White’s parents and brother of the ceremony during the previous week. The family made the trip from La Porte and stayed overnight to surprise White on Monday morning.
“It was overwhelming. I’ve had a hard time even thinking straight. I really wasn’t expecting it. We have such a strong district with so many deserving teachers,” White said.
After the surprise announcement, faculty and staff members held a reception in place of the initially announced staff meeting, something White jokingly considered to be an extra benefit of receiving the award.
In her nominations, White was described as “gifted in all domains of education, including the areas of student/parent relationships, planning/assessment/instruction and leadership.”
Hesitant to talk herself up, White had put some thought into why she believes she may have received the award.
“I think I work really hard. I put in really long hours, and I think people realize it and are appreciative,” she said. “I know I have done what I can to help my colleagues and my (students’) parents, and I think they are appreciative.”
With the announcement rewarding her past work and giving her a standard to strive for moving forward, White is hoping that being named Teacher of the Year will allow her to reach out across the district and work with teachers throughout Carmel.
“I love having visitors in the classroom to discuss what we are doing and what’s working, what isn’t. I think that this award will give me opportunities to do more collaboration with other teachers from across the district,” White said.
Later this year, White will represent CCS in the state Teacher of the Year competition.
Stephen A. Backer Teacher of the Year
Teacher of the Year nominations are made by students, parents and staff members starting each January. A selection committee consisting of teachers, administrators and a Carmel Education Foundation representative then thoroughly reviews the nominees and selects a recipient in April. The award was created in memory of Backer, who was an advocate and supporter of Carmel Clay Schools. He served on the CCS Board of Trustees from 1994 to 1998 and from 2006 until his passing in March 2009. Backer was board president for five of those years.
Donations in support of the award can be made through the CEF at www.ccs.k12.in.us/foundation.