As we enter our 100th year of leading special education, the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is recognizing exceptional educators from around the world who have shown a passion, dedication, and commitment to making a difference in the lives of the students who they teach. Hear from teachers about their personal experiences working in the field, and get inspired to make your own impact this year.
Since 1984 CEC has honored members who currently provide instruction to students with exceptionalities and are outstanding members of the profession. The Teacher of the Year Award is given every year to a CEC member teacher whose work exemplifies the best in special education teaching and reflects significant, documented positive outcomes for students, continued professional development, and the highest standards of educational quality.
Take a look at former CEC Teachers of the Year and see where they are now.
Carol Dinsdale, Ed.S.
What is your current role?
After retiring in 2015 from Pinellas County Schools (FL) as a teacher of students with emotional and behavioral disabilities for more than a quarter of a century, I found myself totally bored and driving my husband crazy. I returned to education focusing on pre-school, working as a behavioral and curriculum consultant for area preschools (2-VPK) for 7 years, occasionally offering trainings for Early Learning Coalition and Project Challenge. I serve on the Early Childhood Education Advisory Committee for St. Petersburg College. For 3 years I have enjoyed coaching Pinellas County adults with disabilities, assisting them as they pursue more independent lifestyles. In my nine years as educational advisor on the Board of Suncoast Voices for Children (and six also as Secretary), I am proud to be a part of this organization which makes a difference in the lives of abused, abandoned, and neglected children in our area. I am Coordinator of Children’s Ministry at my church, and my husband and I have remained active in Prison Ministry for more than 20 years.
How has the CEC Teacher of the Year Award had an impact on your career and/or how has it built upon your leadership in CEC?
CEC has had a major impact on my career. I know that includes a vision of a high-quality education that is inclusive and equitable for individuals with disabilities. Typically, we think of our students. In my case, it was my students and me! In 1999, I sustained a brain injury while alone. A 20 pound weight hit my left temple, forcing my brain to scrape the right side of my skull. I also sustained a facial laceration. Four doctors said I needed to “figure out why I was still here.” Well, I guess I wasn’t done! I experienced some aphasia, neurological paresthesia, imbalance, cognitive impairment (one friend said I lost about 20 IQ points); however, I kept my sense of humor and my love of teaching! I became ultra-sensitive to environmental factors I had not recognized previously. In fact, I believe I became a BETTER teacher! I understood the noise the fluorescent lights made. I felt the vibration the road work was making the block away as the “tamper” pounded the ground. I could smell the gas fumes from the maintenance equipment as the grounds were tended. I asked for my class to be moved when these environmental irritants were present because I felt them too. I created methods to remember vocabulary words and math functions because I had difficulty with memory also. When I was declared 2005 CEC Clarissa Hug Teacher of the Year, I knew it was because I had become SO aware of how my students learned. I knew how incredible they were! I just needed to find a way for the world to see it, too.
What was most memorable to you about your experience in CEC and/or in education?
The most memorable moments in education are when students contact me to tell me how life is going. One student was in the NFL draft. Another is a mom of three beautiful children. She reads to them every day! One is an attorney. I frequently read about her in the Tampa Bay Times! Sadly, several are in the prison system. I pray for each of them. They are all mine. When they say, “Ms. D, remember when…?” my heart explodes.
What advice do you have for early career teachers?
Your day with your students has to be fun and meaningful-for them and for YOU! Your excitement about the subject you teach is contagious. If you are excited, it shows! If you believe it is relevant, so will they! The day you find yourself dreading driving into work thinking the subject you are teaching is insignificant, you need to pull over to the side of the road and figure out why! Because if you walk into that classroom and try to fake it-they will see right through you. Keep it real every day!
Witnessing my students' successes as they worked diligently to accomplish their academic goals was an inspiration for me. In November 2010, I earned my Ed.S. in Educational Leadership. Trust me, I had quite the cheering squad rooting for me!