Toby Carpenter has seen both sides of education in Dublin.

Toby Carpenter has seen both sides of education in Dublin.

The Karrer Middle School eighth-grade science teacher attended Dublin City Schools as a student and has spent 14 of her 17 years teaching with the district.

And earlier this year, the product of Dublin City Schools was named one of four finalists in the Ohio Department of Education's Teacher of the Year award.

Carpenter and the other finalists were honored by the ODE last month along with Teacher of the year award-winner Debra McDonald, a teacher in the Akron area.

Each school district in the state can submit one teacher for consideration for the Teacher of the Year award and Dublin School Board Member Rick Weininger brought Carpenter up for consideration when he was principal of Karrer Middle School.

"Toby does innovative things in the classroom," Weininger said. "She actually involves kids in decision-making in the classroom."

The honor first came to Carpenter on a special day.

"On my birthday, they told me about it," Carpenter said of the nomination. "It was the best birthday present."

After snagging the districtwide nomination, Carpenter had to submit recommendations and answer questions about teaching.

"It was very similar to master teacher (requirements) in terms of reflective practices," said Carpenter, who became a master teacher a few years ago.

After submissions from throughout the state were narrowed down, Carpenter was interviewed by a board as one of four finalists.

"It's such an honor to be nominated and to be thought of that way," she said.

Teaching wasn't Carpenter's original choice in college where she tried business and psychology before settling on education.

"I called my mom and told her 'I think I'm going to go into education,' " Carpenter said. "She said, 'Finally.' "

The field of education has been far from disappointing for Carpenter.

"Obviously I really enjoy working with the kids," she said.

"I get so excited when they are excited about learning. When you see the light bulb light up when they get something, to have that happen on a regular basis is so energizing. I think I have the best job in the world."

Science isn't the easiest subject for some students, but Carpenter works to make the abstract more applicable.

"I think it's really important to make it real life applicable and to see the connection to real life," she said.

"I really do spend significant time working with my colleagues and working with other science teachers to find ways that will really engage kids."

Giving students the power to realize strengths, weaknesses and how they best learn also helps in the classroom, Carpenter said.

"We have discussions and ask them to be reflective in practice and ask them to think about strengths and individualize themselves," she said. "If you approach content from different perspectives everyone gets hooked."

Although Carpenter did not receive the top award, she's still honored for the nomination and has heard from parents, colleagues and former students.

"I laughed when I got interviewed because I said it's an honor to be nominated, like they do at the Oscars," she said.

"But I know what they mean. It is an honor to be nominated. The fallout from this has been very, very positive. It's been fun."