Humor is an important tool in Ken Carter's arsenal as a regular substitute teacher at Grandview schools.
"It isn't easy being a substitute, so I use humor as much as I can," said Carter, who often teaches at Edison Intermediate/Larry Larson Middle School and Grandview Heights High School.
"I have a running battle with Mr. Page, the eighth-grade social studies (teacher). He always jokes that he's afraid I'm going to teach the students the wrong side of history when it comes to the American Revolution," said Carter, a native of Great Britain.
"So when I was subbing for him once, I brought in these toothpicks that had the British flag attached to them.
"When Mr. Page came back, the students were all waving the Union Jack to greet him," Carter said. "They got a big kick out of it."
But make no mistake, education is important to Carter, the latest recipient of the Tri-Village Rotary Club Bobcat Award.
"Education is such an important part of growing up," he said. "I was raised in a poor family in England and it's only through education that I got to where I am today. I never would have made it to America without an education."
When he retired after a 32-year career in chemical engineering, Carter became a high school chemistry teacher in North Carolina.
After he retired from teaching and moved to Grandview two years ago, Carter still wanted to stay involved in educating youngsters, so he applied to work as a substitute teacher.
"The nice thing about being a substitute teacher is that you don't have to go in every day -- only when you want to and it fits your schedule," he said. "But I love teaching in Grandview."
That's especially true after working in a large district in North Carolina.
"There's a real feeling of community here," he said. "Everybody is on the same page, and that makes it nice. The district I worked for in North Carolina was huge, with all these different factions. It was very dysfunctional."
He and his wife moved to Grandview, where one of their daughters resides.
"Our other daughters live in New York and North Carolina, and we chose to come to Ohio because it's an equidistant drive to both of our other daughters," Carter said.
While he sometimes fills in for math and chemistry teachers at the high school -- "it's comfortable for me with my background because the teacher doesn't have to give me the lesson plan. I can just pick up where they are" -- Carter more often than not finds himself assigned to the intermediate/middle school grades.
His sense of humor again came into play when he participated in the Circle of Grandparents program at the middle school.
To make sure students weren't intimidated that one of the grandparents visiting the school was also one of their teachers, Carter donned a costume that included a blue and orange wig and an oversized pair of plastic green glasses.
Carter also assists with the middle school's Science Olympiad and MathCounts teams.
He was nominated for the Bobcat Award by math teachers Sarah Banks and Nicole Wainscott, who serve as MathCounts advisers.
Their nomination describes Carter as "a fabulous educator who truly cares for" and "seeks to build relationships with students.
"He makes learning new lessons fun, exciting and relevant. He understands students of all ages, their learning styles and the obstacles they face. He really tries to get to know them as individual students," the nomination form states.
The Bobcat Award honors a district employee or community member in recognition of their extraordinary contribution of time, talent or effort on behalf of the district and its students.