Clary Carleton, a 1998 alumna from the School of Education’s post-baccalaureate certificate in teaching program, has been named Richmond Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year for 2016.
Carleton, who also received a master’s degree in English literature from VCU, has taught at Open High School since 1999.
“It’s great to be recognized by my colleagues and my district,” Carleton said. “I’m proud to work for the city: I love working in my little school and love working with the students that I do.”
Though she originally came to VCU with no intention of becoming a teacher, it was a Foundation of Education course - an elective she took purely on a whim - that ended up changing Carleton’s career path.
“I really engaged with the material in that class, learning about the history of education and its role in democracy,” she said. “I found that exciting, and realized that, as a teacher, I could make a difference.”
Carleton also discovered Open High School while at VCU, teaching a short fiction class in the building’s basement. Located in Oregon Hill, the alternative high school takes a more informal approach to schooling, emphasizing student independence and service learning for its 180 students.
“It’s a wonderful place, very friendly and informal,” Carleton said. “Because of its size, we can do things that probably wouldn’t work at other schools. There are pros and cons to any environment, though, so it’s all about finding the right fit. And I’ve found the right fit for me here.”
Someone who fully embraces the idea of lifelong learning (“I’m always a student; I think the best teachers are,” she said), Carleton credits the School of Education with setting her up for success in her future career.
“I felt very well prepared after I graduated from VCU,” she said. “The faculty there are very invested in their students. Dr. Leila Christenbury, in particular, was very influential for me. She has been a mentor to me, and I just revere her and the work she has done.”
To read the full press release on Carleton’s award, please visit the RPS website.