Growing up with an aunt with special needs, Carolyn Lewis knew she wanted to help others when she became an adult.
“She inspired me to go to school," Lewis recalled. "To learn and help children succeed, regardless of what their capabilities were."
Lewis' compassion was recognized when she was named the Golden Apple Teacher for January during a ceremony at T.J. Harris Lower Elementary on Jan. 14.
The Army veteran has been teaching for 30 years, serving students in the Lauderdale County, Kemper County and Meridian Public School districts, as well as overseas in Japan.
Lewis, who is currently an exceptional education teacher at T.J. Harris, said her favorite thing about teaching is helping students realize their potential.
“My joy comes from working with my special education students,” she said. “It gives me the joy to see a student learn something they didn’t know...I love interacting with my students every day.”
“I was overwhelmed, surprised and blessed,” she said after receiving the Golden Apple Award. “It's just amazing to me that anyone would think enough of what I do everyday to acknowledge it."
In a nomination letter, a former student credited Lewis for their academic success.
"I've had many amazing teachers, but this teacher is by far the best," the student wrote. “She has great leadership skills...and is also the only teacher that understands the way I learn."
Lewis said her best moments as a teacher aren't always in the classroom.
“It’s when a student comes back and says, 'Mrs. Lewis, do you remember me?',” she said. “The main thing I remember about you is you helping somebody.”
Lewis said special education teachers are unsung heroes, because sometimes they aren't recognized for their hard work.
“I'm thankful someone thought about the special education teachers,” she said.
The Golden Apple Award
Lewis received a Golden Apple Teacher of the Month Certificate, a $300 cash award, and a $1,000 continuing education voucher from Avery Products, and $1,300 in school supplies.
The monthly winners will be invited to the Golden Apple Teacher of the Year banquet and that winner will receive a special award on stage (The Meridian Star article), a custom-made Teacher of the Year Trophy, $2,500 cash to be used at their discretion and a $2,500 scholarship to be awarded to a deserving student in the teacher’s name. An announcement should be made in May 2021.
Meridian Community College is the title sponsor. Golden Apple Award Partners in Education key sponsors are The Meridian Star, The Meridian Family of Stations Bounce TV and MeTV of Meridian, EMEPA, Mississippi Power, Avery Products, Woodstock Furniture, and College Savings of Mississippi. Participating sponsors are Meridian Coca-Cola Bottling and Kedplasma.
How to nominate an educator
Nominations for the monthly Golden Apple Award can be submitted by parents, faculty, or community members as well as past or present students. Candidates must be a current, full-time, faculty member in Pre-K through 12th grade (public or private) and work in the following counties: Lauderdale, Neshoba, Kemper, Clarke, and Newton in Mississippi; and Choctaw and Sumter in Alabama.
The nomination process consists of an essay (no more than 500 words) detailing why the person should be considered for the award. Nomination details and an entry form are available online at www.goldenappleawards.com