Person of the Week: Carol Wooten

March 12, 2010 3:35:01 PM PST
Hunter Magnet Elementary School teacher Carol Wooten dedicated her life to making a positive impact on dozens of fifth graders every day.

She teaches science, math and social studies. During her career, she's built a unique fan base.

Wooten is loved by her students, respected by her co-workers and now, is honored by President Barack Obama.

If you spend a few minutes in a science class with her, you can see why she always has a captive audience.

She's like one of her students -- always ready for a new experiment.

"I like teaching science because it's all hands on," Wooten told ABC11 Eyewitness News. "It's not textbook. You don't sit there and open a textbook and turn to a specific page. You actually get to do it. The kids are actually real scientists in the classroom. Instead of just reading about it, we're doing it."

Wooten has been with the Wake County Public School System for almost 12 years.

She's nationally board certified in her profession and was named a Kenan Fellow at NC State in 2004.

Recently, Wooten was honored by President Obama at the White House for excellence in science and teaching.

"The whole experience was surreal," she explained. "As far as when the doors were opened, and we're standing there, and we're getting ready to have our picture made with the President of the United States. And he walks in, and you almost want to pinch yourself. It's actually President Obama walking in."

And while Wooten says she was surprised to receive the award, it comes as no surprise to the students she teaches.

"She's really nice, and she doesn't make us do anything weird in textbooks," student Sam Crawford said.

"She likes us to investigate and find our own things," student Briner Sealey said. "Like, she likes us to find it out on our own. Not just you know read it and say oh, well, this is how it's supposed to be."

On the day ABC11 visited Wooten's class; students were spread out in the hallway experimenting with propeller driven cars.

"You get to kind of play around and have the stress of, like, it's not working, or yes it worked," student Frances Hoggard said. "It's fun to experience it. I think you're smarter when you know this kind of stuff.

And Wooten says that's the goal.

It's much easier to teach if students are already excited about learning.

So, how do you make that happen?

Wooten says it's all about her passion for kids. But her passion almost got in the way of her big award.

"It was shocking to find out I received it," she said. "Actually, I didn't know I had received it originally. It was announced July 7th, and I was in labor that day."

But it's a labor of love that has led to Wooten's most recent honor. One student summed it up as only a fifth grader can.

"Ms. Wooten is the best teacher I've ever had!" exclaimed the student.

In addition to her trip to Washington, Wooten won $10,000 from the National Science Foundation.

She'll get to use that money however she wants to bring more resources into the classroom.

To nominate someone for Eyewitness News Person of the Week, click here.

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