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Teacher recognized at state level

ARLEE – On Thursday afternoon, Susan Carney-Lammerding took a moment to take the plastic off the plaque she was given as the Montana Elementary PE Teacher of the Year.

“This wouldn’t happen without the kids,” she said. 

She received the award from the Society of Health and Physical Education on Aug. 5 for her dedication to teaching, and she now qualifies to compete for the Northwest title. 

“It’s been a great year,” she said. “I finished 25 years of teaching. I’ve been married for 20 years, and I turned 50. And, I got this award to cap it all off.”

The students might not recognize her full name engraved on the plaque.

“After I got married, the kids couldn’t get used to my new name,” she said. “The little ones sometimes call me Mrs. Carney, but it’s mostly Carney.”

She put the award down when half-a-dozen Arlee students walked into her room needing help during freshman orientation. The students had to show school spirit as part of a project. Carney demonstrated the cheer before she let the kids try.

“Nope, try again,” she said as they quietly finished. 

After about five rounds, the kids finally hit the high note. As the students left, she explained that teaching requires involvement. 

“I know the end result I want,” she said. “And if I don’t model it, I won’t get it.”

She exhibits a level of energy that seems like it might be induced by an energy drink.

“No energy drinks,” she said. “Never any energy drinks. You have to get the kids going to get them interested, and I draw energy from the kids.”

Although, she does need a break.

“I’m exhausted at the end of the day,” she said. 

It’s easy to understand why she might be tired. After a long day of teaching, she has several more jobs. She teaches driver’s education, substitutes as a bus driver on occasion and coaches junior high basketball. 

“She has a spirited personality,” said Bill Stockton, co-worker. “She has taught for many years and she still has energy and passion. Her winning this award is a big deal for our school, and it shows the positive work she does with the kids.”

She almost didn’t become a teacher after getting her teaching degree.

“I did a variety of jobs, but I wasn’t happy, so I decided to go back to what I love,” she said. “Teaching may not pay a lot, but it makes me happy.” 

Nellie Desjarlais, a high school freshman, remembers Carney’s elementary PE class.

“She got us going,” she said. “She had us doing obstacle courses, and we did Jump Rope for Heart. She told us to be loud and have fun.”

Brendan Ryan also remembered her class.

“She is a fun teacher, but she is stern when she needs to be,” he said. 

Carney received the award for her work as an elementary teacher, but she also teaches high school students.

“I’m looking forward to this year,” she said. 

I’m sure it’s going to be another great year.” 

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