An Eaton County educator known for inspiring a love of Spanish and other languages in his students and for providing them with “real world” experiences through volunteer work and lessons from his international travels has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Daniel Carr, teaches Spanish and sports marketing at Waverly High School, which is part of the Waverly Community Schools district.
The Michigan Lottery established the Excellence in Education award program in 2014 to recognize outstanding public school educators across the state during the school year.
Winners of the weekly award receive a plaque, a $500 cash prize, and a $500 grant to their classroom, school or school district. One of the weekly winners will be selected as the Educator of the Year and will receive a $10,000 cash prize.
Each winner also will be featured in a news segment on the Lottery’s media partner stations: WXYZ-TV in Detroit, FOX 17 in Grand Rapids, and FOX 47 in Lansing. The news segment featuring Carr will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing and then on Thursday in Detroit.
For the Excellence in Education awards program, the Lottery has teamed up with Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo. Izzo met recently with Carr at the Breslin Center and presented him with the award.
Carr said his favorite part of being an educator is “exposing students to the real world through my personal international travel experiences and through visits to the classroom by a variety of guests with a wealth of inspiring life experiences.
In the first semester of this school year, he had nearly 50 guest speakers visit his classes. In Spanish class, there were guests from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries. In sports marketing, the guests included pro and college athletes and coaches, musicians, big event promoters, sports announcers, and movie directors.”
He said knowing that the knowledge and experiences he shares with students will help them later in life motivates him to do his best each day. “I’m fortunate to see where life has taken many of my former students and how the subject matter they’ve learned in my classroom and more importantly, the life lessons they’ve learned, have made a positive impact on them in the ‘real world,’” he said.
Carr said he was attracted to a career in education because it gave him the opportunity to “work with young people, both locally and around the world, teaching them life lessons through the game of basketball.”
The mother of a Waverly High School student nominated Carr for the Excellence in Education award and described him as “just the kind of teacher who inspires kids.”
The nomination noted that Waverly High School recently added an upper level Spanish class because so many students wanted to keep studying the language with Carr. He also is the adviser for the school’s Spanish Honor Society.
“He also spearheads World Language Night, where all the different language classes perform skits. He even has been known to stay the night at the school to make sure this event goes off as planned,” the nomination said.
Carr described World Language Night as a “huge variety show that showcases the languages that are taught and spoken at our school, as well as the diversity of our student body and the impact our students make on the global community. Each year, the students and I try to dream up bigger and crazier things to do for the show. Last year, for example, I brought in a contestant from ‘America’s Got Talent’ to sing with one of our students in Spanish. I invited a highly renowned Salsa instructor to reach one of my classes a dance. I also had a professional movie stunt scene coordinator choreograph and train about 20 students for an epic fight scene we did in our ‘Peter Pan’ play. All of these people volunteered their time and expertise and the students put in hundreds of hours of their own time.”
The nomination added that Carr also inspires and encourages students to do volunteer work, such as traveling to Detroit to help sort medical supplies going to Third World countries through the nonprofit World Medical Relief.
“Mr. Carr will go out of his way for any of his students! He travels every year to a new country and brings information about the country and its culture back to his students and that inspires them even more!”
Carr, who has visited every Spanish-speaking country, is known for his mission trips around the globe, many of them to help build hospitals and orphanages or to serve as a translator for visiting doctors.
On more than 25 trips to countries ranging from Kenya and Rwanda to Romania and Argentina, he’s used basketball – a game he didn’t even play in high school – to empower young people. “Life lessons, such as trust, perseverance, and teamwork can be taught through sports, which shatter all barriers,” he has said.
Carr has been an educator for 19 years, all at Waverly High School. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in Spanish and a master of arts degree in education from Michigan State University.
Excellence in Education award nominees are evaluated on the following criteria:
- Excellence – Their work consistently helps students and/or their schools or school districts advance to higher levels of academic achievement.
- Dedication – They consistently go above and beyond expectations to help students succeed.
- Inspiration – Their work inspires others around them to exceed expectations either academically or professionally.
- Leadership – They demonstrate clear leadership skills in their positions with their school or school districts
- Effectiveness – The nominee’s work has clear and positive results on the educational advancement of students within the school or school district.