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After 16 years of teaching in the Danville and Indianapolis school districts, Carrie Cool decided to return to the place she grew up.

In the four years since she was hired as Bismarck-Henning Junior High’s seventh- and eighth-grade special-education teacher, she’s added fifth and sixth grades to her slate and has become the leader, schedule-maker, staff leader, meeting organizer and leader, and writer of Individual Educational Plans for the school’s special-education department.

“She has taken on these extra duties without any hesitation, and she has done an amazing job,” Principal Rusty Campbell said. “She has done all this during the most stressful time for kids. We are seeing more and more kids that need supports, and Carrie has done an amazing job with our kids, families and community. Her tireless work ethic, positive attitude and support for everyone else are just a few reasons she needs to be recognized as The News-Gazette’s Teacher of the Week.”

I find my work important because … all students deserve to find their true potential whatever their starting point may be. My students have many talents, so being able to have a part in helping them discover those talents and develop them is an honor.

I became a teacher because … I enjoy helping people, and I had such a great school experience that it seemed like a good fit.

The most unique lesson that I teach is … organization! I work with middle-school students, and that age range tends to need a little extra advice in the organization department. Teaching ways to use charts, lists, timelines and visual aids to help them with school success is fun to me and probably our most unique lesson.

My most fulfilling moment on the job is when … I’m able to help students through circumstances that have them in a place where they are not able to learn well that day. Those moments when you get to have the right conversation at the right time that allows the student to move on and get back to his schoolwork fulfill me more than any other.

Something else I’m passionate about is … keeping our students active. I love being involved in the athletic programs at school because it gives you opportunities to bond with the students in new ways. Teaching them skills that they can use in the future to be active and healthy adults is fun and rewarding.

My favorite teacher and subject to study in school was … Lori Garrett at Danville Area Community College. I took Anatomy and Physiology I and II with her. I remember it being the most challenging classes I had taken up to that point in education, and she taught me I could do hard things. I remember studying for hours and being so intrigued by all the ways she taught how and why the body does what it does.

I engage students during this strange time by … trying to find ways to fit in fun activities or brain breaks so that when we get back to work, we are recharged and ready to go. My students enjoy “Would You Rather …” questions or bracket games where we vote on our favorite things.

If I weren’t a teacher, I would be … some sort of therapist. In college, I also took classes in speech therapy and was also interested in occupational or physical therapy.

— Anthony Zilis