PLANT CITY A Plant City High teacher who said her job is her real reward has been named the top in her craft by the county.
Niki Carpenter not only teaches students but also mentors other art teachers, said Dana Warner, district supervisor of art education for kindergarten through the 12th grade.
“She teaches at a very high level and I call on her often,” said Warner, who has known Carpenter since they taught at the same school years ago. Carpenter won in the high school category.
Carpenter, a 16-year teaching veteran, said the award was particularly meaningful because art teachers pick the nominees.
“It is humbling and a great feeling to know that other art teachers think highly of the work I am doing,” said Carpenter, who started teaching at Plant City High 10 years ago.
Carpenter was born in New York and lived in Virginia outside Washington, D.C., but spent most of her childhood in Naples.
She loved art but didn’t take any art classes until she was a senior at Naples High School due to her heavy class load. After graduating in 1994, she started at the University of South Florida.
She considered teaching other subjects, but said art allowed her to instruct students in many disciplines, such as math and science, which both figure into the craft.
“I teach art, but I am really teaching problem solving, etiquette, how to take a critique, how to give constructive feedback, how to fail – and continue to try,” she said.
Many of the classes she teaches are in photography, and Plant City High has the one of the largest black and white darkrooms in the county with more than a dozen enlargers thanks to the community’s generosity, she said.
She said she feels honored to win the award, “but like most people say – my job is the real reward.”
“It is so nice to be recognized for what I do, but more important than that is that I actually like going to work – since I will be doing it for the rest of my life,” she said.