LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Carla Lewis

Position: Third and Fourth Grade Teacher
School: Fayston Elementary School
School District: Harwood Unified Union School District
City, State: Fayston, VT

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Carla Lewis was nominated by a colleague, Doug Bergstein.

The premise of Steven Covey’s book, "The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness" is that if you don't find your own unique significance/voice, neither you nor your organization would be able to achieve greatness. What does greatness mean in education? What comes immediately to mind is Mrs. Lewis’ long and inspiring career in education at Fayston School. She found her voice early on in her career and maintained that voice to make a positive impact on her students, colleagues, and her community.

There have been numerous times when Mrs. Lewis has gone the extra mile for others.  She has been the steward of her school’s Sunshine Fund and figures out the right thing to say or do to brighten someone’s day, even if it's a simple act, such as having lunch in her classroom with current and former students. She teaches her students and colleagues that generosity of self is the best gift they can provide others and that in education, the heart and brain are not disconnected, but are reliant on each other.

Many students, parents and colleagues would describe Mrs. Lewis, as someone who has been a LifeChanger countless times throughout her 40 year career in public education at Fayston Elementary School. Her commitment to students, teaching and learning has remained steadfast ever since she began her career in 1978. Her first students are almost 50 years old now. Throughout her career teaching grades two through five at a small rural Vermont school, Mrs. Lewis has won the Christa McAuliffe Award, been nominated for Vermont Teacher of the Year, won an award for creating a nature trail on school grounds and had a actual star named after her. She has been a steady, professional, and strong force at the Fayston School through many changes.

"Carla has remained connected to her students throughout the years. When we celebrated our 50th anniversary as a school building, she was able to reach out to bring in some of her very first students to be part of the celebration," Bergstein said. "Without hesitation those former students gladly participated in our efforts to collect oral histories and/or attend our celebration. "

Countless students recounted stories about how their best experiences associated with Fayston School were about their connection with Mrs. Lewis. Mrs. Lewis is always described as their favorite teacher, the teacher that inspired their love of learning, interest in nature and poetry, desire to become a teacher themselves and the list goes on!  

Mrs. Lewis has consistently been involved with her district initiatives. Writing has been her passion, with a strong emphasis on poetry. During the year she won the Christa McAuliffe Award, she worked for the state of Vermont to help promote poetry in classrooms around the state. In one of her first years, she won an award for creating a nature trail on school grounds that is still in use today. In fact, every 5-7 years, she goes back with a new class to make improvements to better the experience for all those that use it.

"There is no doubt in any parent, colleague, or student’s mind that Mrs. Lewis is a great teacher...even more, a LifeChanger." Bergstein said. "She certainly has passion, enthusiasm, and creativity, but most importantly, she has never thought she had the stuff for greatness (though she did the best with the resources that were available). As a teacher, she found herself naturally drawn to thinking about what she could do to improve her lessons, to overcome negative student behaviors, or to encourage individual students. She never quit trying to improve, grow, and learn to be a better teacher."



Comments (18)


Heather Hammond Posted over a year ago

Carla is an amazing educator and leader. Her quiet manner belies a steely determination to make sure each child has the chance to grow and thrive. She sparked a love of poetry in my daughter that no one else saw, and was able help my daughter focus her energy into more contemplative work. Her love of nature fits right into the spirit and vision of Fayston Elementary, and she always makes time to pause and look at what is happening outside, or with the plants or animals in her class. With all of today's focus on test scores and measurables, Carla really understands what it takes to inspire young artists, poets, writers, scientists, explorers.... and simply good citizens of the world. We will miss her greatly.

Allison Schlageter Posted over a year ago

Carla is a light in our school; a light that shines beyond the classroom walls, through the school, and into the community. It has been an honor to work with Carla at Fayston School. I have seen the patience and care she approaches teaching with, and the genuine interest she takes in each and every student. Carla pushes students to do better than their best while also simultaneously growing their confidence. Students in her class are engaged in a continuous learning and growth cycle; academically and personally. We have worked together on several big projects throughout the years; and it's always a pleasure to work with someone as thoughtful, genuine, and driven as Carla. She truly wants the best for each and every student; she is appreciated by her students, their families, her colleagues, and the community.

Erika Lindberg Posted over a year ago

I first met Ms. Lewis when I became her classroom aide in 1987 for a year before pursuing my own career as a teacher. She was my first introduction to teaching after being in a student's seat. I was impressed by how much creativity she brought into her lessons. The students rarely learned through the pages of a book alone. There was often some opportunity for the students to express themselves in a creative way, whether through art, puppet shows, crafts or poetry. Learning in and through the outdoors was also an integral part of her teaching. I recall going out on the nature trail many times that year. When I had my own kids I hoped she would be their teacher one day. My wish came true. Both of my kids loved Ms. Lewis. My daughter invited her for lunch one summer day and Ms. Lewis gladly came. My daughter, a teacher herself, still remembers that important day she had a lunch date with Ms. Lewis. I returned to the Fayston School as a French teacher several years later. Over the past 16 years I have seen Ms. Lewis go above and beyond what is expected of teachers. She has helped students create a beautiful quilt for the school, led a sewing group during her lunch break, organized events for teachers, helped students outside of class time along with many other activities. I look to Ms. Lewis for advice on many aspects of teaching as she is not only the most experienced teacher I know but also one with very good intuition and understanding of children. On several occasions she has stayed in the classroom to lend a hand when we are working on a bigger project or practicing for a performance. Ms. Lewis is always respectful of students as she guides them towards their full potential in both social-emotional and academic facets of their lives. With Ms. Lewis' guidance students want to push themselves beyond their comfort zone. I cannot think of another teacher who is more deserving of LifeChanger of the Year award.

Donarae Dawson Posted over a year ago

When I think of a teacher who has touched many childrens' lives in a positive, nurturing, loving way I think of Carla Lewis. Carla has provided an immensely rich educational experience for so many Fayston Students over the past several decades. She teaches from the heart. Carla loves children and has very high standards for every student in her classes. She never waivers from her quiet, calm and pleasant demeanor. She has a quiet sense of humor and is an avid reader, writer and learner herself. This keeps her young, vibrant and current with educational practice. Her students throughout the years have greatly benefited from her experience. Her love of writing and poetry has empowered and motivated learners of all ages and abilities. Carla has unique gifts and talents in her work with students who are struggling. Her background in special education made her such an exemplary teacher in the classroom. She was and is able to help struggling learners progress and she inspired all students to learn and strive to become great readers, writers, mathematicians and problem solvers and inquirers/researchers. Carla Lewis will be sorely missed in our school. I had the pleasure of working with Carla for many years and she is a wonderful teacher and friend to all. She holds a special place in my heart as colleague, friend and teacher. I do hope that Carla will continue her work in education for many years to come- even in her retirement.

Carolyn Bauer Posted over a year ago

Carla is not only an outstanding educator, she is also nurturing, compassionate, and understanding by setting an atmosphere of calm and gentle guidance. Her passion for learning has inspired many generations of Fayston children with my own two included. They acquired a deep love of reading and a lifelong thirst to always learn more from Carla. She has also been an example to the faculty and staff over the years of a true educator and innovator who puts her students and values first to adapt and grow in the changing field of teaching. How fortunate we are to have had her all these years. An inspiration to all who know her...yes. Kind, gentle and solid...yes. A Life Changer? Definitely! Thank you, Carla!

Laura Brines Posted over a year ago

Even though I am an early childhood educator and taught for many years in a private preschool, I consider Carla a colleague. She has always been eager to listen, advise and discuss issues that resonated with both of us for our students- from poetry to pedagogy, from technology to favorite books to read aloud, from woodland school paths to native plants... And anyone of any age that has been fortunate to hear Carla read aloud has probably experienced their life changed on the spot. Carla brings books and poetry alive. She holds you spellbound. Her passion for books, poetry and writing is contagious. Parents and students that I have the joy of knowing always make a point of telling me how lucky they feel to have Carla as their teacher. She is absolutely a LifeChanger! I know she changed and influenced my life in profound ways. I treasure our friendship and colleagueship.

Jean Joslin Posted over a year ago

I had the pleasure of working with Carla Lewis at Fayston Elementary School for over 20 years. Carla is certainly an inspiration to all! In her quiet way, she leads and sets an amazing example for everyone with her dedication, positive attitude and willingness to take on new challenges. She sees each child's strengths and encourages each child to be proud of his or her work and accomplishments. Carla is a colleague, mentor, leader, friend and support to everyone. She is the most prepared, caring and flexible teacher I know. Carla is a LifeChanger for students and adults.

Michele Ritzinger Posted over a year ago

My name is Michele Ritzinger, I was a student of Carla Lewis in the 80’s. Carla was my 3rd and 4th grade teacher, I had the privilege of having her for 2 years. I was not crazy about school but she made it fun and enjoyable every day. Carla is very sensitive to every child’s learning needs and ability. She treats every child with respect and a kindness that I don’t see much of anymore. My youngest son and I moved back to Vermont in June of 2016 and he was lucky enough to also have Carla Lewis as his 4th grade teacher. He was so excited when I told him she was going to be his teacher. He loves her and has great respect and admiration for her. My son enjoys school but with her as his teacher he has a whole new outlook on school. With Carla as his teacher he was able to spread his wings and really get involved in some fun and interesting ways of learning things. Even though she is not his teacher anymore he still likes to talk to her at school and go to her for help with anything. Carla Lewis is a very special teacher and person, we need more teachers like her in our schools.

Laura Titus Posted over a year ago

Carla has not only done many things for Fayston Elementary School, but she has worked tirelessly on district-wide committees to help all of the schools in our district better. She may be on several committees in the same year, but it doesn't slow her down. I have known Carla as a teacher and parent of two sons the same age as my sons. We attended sporting events and school events together. Not only was she supportive of her own children, but everyone else's as well. Carla deserves this award!

Patti Lewis Posted over a year ago

Carla was a true blessing to my daughter in the 3rd and 4th grades at the Fayston School. A shier child, unsure of the world, Carla provided the calm support and encouragement to help the girl grow in positive directions. We have loved Carla from the moment we met her and been inspired by her attitude, intelligence, and caring. She is indeed a Life Changer!!

Cari Wilson Posted over a year ago

My son had Mrs. Lewis in 3rd and 4th grade. He went from hating to read to enjoying the many books that Carla causally suggested. She also fostered and shared his love of rocks geology. He thrived in Mrs. Lewis's class being challenged and supported at the same time.

Danielle L Livingston Posted over a year ago

I personally do not have a relationship with Carla, but my husband, Josh Livingston, has had nothing but amazing memories to share with me about her. She was by far his favorite teacher. He did not enjoy school very much, but he greatly enjoyed her class. He said she always made learning fun and really understood every kid. That she took the time to get to know every child's needs and really help them succeed in class!

Kimberly Canarecci Posted over a year ago

I love Mrs. Lewis ! She is a very patient teacher for the last 2 years to my daughter.. My daughter developed of love of sewing while in her class. Mrs. Lewis is by far a favorite teacher to many. Mrs. Lewis is very easy to talk to and always makes time for her students and their parents. She has been the most patient while helping my daughter through her struggles. We will miss her at Fayston, but she has far earned her retirement!

Heidi Spear Posted over a year ago

Carla Lewis is what we all hope for in a teacher and a community member. Serving on the board of her school for nearly a decade, I got to witness her extraordinary ability and willingness to go above and beyond in engaging students, families and the broader school community to optimize the learning environment and opportunities for our students. We were so fortunate to have her kind and inspiring presence in our community for so many years. Even in retirement, I am sure she will continue to lift those around her and be a life changer. We all have much to learn from Carla.

Kim Martin Posted over a year ago

According to an article in Faculty Focus by Maria Orlando EdD, there are nine characteristics of a great teacher, characteristics that help change students’ lives. Carla Lewis embodies them all. • She respects her students and creates a welcoming learning environment for all students. • Carla creates a sense of belonging and community in her classroom. • She is warm, accessible, enthusiastic and caring. Carla is approachable, not only to students, but to everyone at Fayston. • Carla sets high expectations for all students. • She has her own love of learning and inspires students with her passion for education. • A great teacher is a skilled leader. Carla conveys this sense of leadership to students by providing opportunities for each of them to assume leadership roles. • Carla can “shift-gears” and is flexible when a lesson isn’t working. She can assess her teaching throughout the lessons and finds new ways to present material to make sure that every student understands the key concepts. • She collaborates with colleagues on an ongoing basis. Carla uses constructive criticism and advice as an opportunity to grow as an educator. • Carla maintains professionalism in all areas—from personal appearance to organizational skills and preparedness for each day. Her communication skills are exemplary, whether she is speaking with an administrator, one of her students or a colleague. I worked with Carla Lewis at Fayston Elementary School 30 years ago. She has remained a true, loyal friend and has always inspired me to be a better person. I can’t think of a better teacher than Carla who deserves this award!

Patricia King Posted over a year ago

Carla Lewis has been an inspiration for children for over 40 years. Her quiet, calm demeanor encourages risk-taking by students that wouldn't otherwise dare to try. Mrs. Lewis truly lives by the words "leave no child behind". She goes above and beyond to welcome all children and help them see that they each have something valuable to contribute. Mrs. Lewis's depth of knowledge of curricula and of understanding the value in differentiating for students, supports the reality that no two individuals learn in the same manner, by the same modality. This is not the norm. This is a skill held by few. Mrs. Lewis continues to challenge herself, to grow professionally, always seeking to improve. She is a life-long learner, a trait she shares with her students and colleagues. Not only has Mrs. Lewis changed the lives of the hundreds of children and families that have had the honor to be a part of the Fayston Elementary School community but she has also changed my life. Mrs. Lewis sis truly a LifeChanger!

Nora McDonough Posted over a year ago

Carla embodies the spirit of kindness that has come to define Fayston School. She leads our staff in recognizing each other and our families in times of sadness and celebration. Over her many years of experience, she keeps her teaching fresh and she is always willing to collaborate or try something new. She teaches her students with the utmost respect and care and creates better, kinder human beings. It has been a pleasure to work with Carla over several years. She will be immensely missed at Fayston School!

Leslie Colomb Posted over a year ago

To Whom It May Concern: I was a Principal at Fayston Elementary School and I had the pleasure of having Carla Lewis as one of my teachers. She always gave 150% to her students, colleagues and families. Carla brought learning alive in the classroom. She was passionate, committed, and always student centered. I totally saw Carla as a life changer and it would be amazing for her to be recognized in this way. Take care, Leslie Colomb (Retired Principal/UVM Lecturer)