Carla Varner named one of seven Kansas Master Teachers for 2014

For 26 years, Carla Varner has dedicated her life to the youth. That dedication to teaching was recognized when she was named one of seven Kansas Master Teachers for 2014.

Varner is a fifth grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in El Dorado.

When Varner received the phone call informing her she won, she didn’t believe it.

She said she attended Emporia State University, where the call came from, so she just thought they were calling to update her alumni information.

“I was just shocked,” she said. “There are a ton of good teachers.

“It’s probably a life-long dream to be recognized for something I enjoy this much,” she continued.

Varner’s teaching career has all been at Lincoln. She started teaching third grade, moved up to fourth and now teaches fifth.

She enjoys teaching this grade level.

“I like the maturity and being able to joke and have a sense of humor,” she said.

She also enjoys being able to assign a task and see them complete it.

“We’re certainly very proud of her but we’re not surprised, she is such a solid instructor for us,” said Superintendent Sue Givens.

She mentioned Varner’s leadership in district as chair of the Professional Development Committee, her involvement in her building and her huge community involvement.

“She’s got all the pieces that you hope for in a good teacher,” Givens said.

Varner has always wanted to be a teacher since she was in elementary school.

She said she always loved and respected her elementary teachers, attending a small school in western Kansas. She said they also did things together in the community.

Her philosophy for teaching is “all students can learn.” In her application, she said, “teachers need to have lessons that cover a range of skills to meet the needs of their students. Effective educators recognize that a student’s background and previous experiences play a large role in their educational success.”

She teaches from the concrete level to the abstract level during lessons, using manipulative, computers, iPods, iPads and individual white boards.

She enjoys the progressive attitude of USD 490 always looking to the future and providing good technology.

“The staff (at Lincoln) is the best,” she said. “They are my family.”

She told the story of after her grandfather passed away, her students had a movie afternoon for her and brought snacks.

In the nomination packet, one of the letters stated: “Carla is the ‘go-to’ person in Lincoln Elementary. She displays a tremendous amount of professionalism and common sense in the ever changing field of education. She has always been the calming force for the staff at Lincoln Elementary and me.”

A letter from a former student stated: “I was blessed to have Mrs. Varner for both fourth and fifth grades. This year I will be graduating from El Dorado High with the highest honors available as well as being recognized senior class president. I could not have accomplished everything I have without the great educators in the USD 490 school district, especially Mrs. Carla Varner…Mrs. Carla Varner showed me how important it its to strive to be the best you can….she taught me many life lessons, which I still use to this day.”

Another former student said: “I walked into the class not knowing what to expect. I see a lady standing in front of me smiling from ear to ear. You can see it in her eyes, she was so happy to be around all of us….She didn’t just teach me all of the things I needed to learn in school plus more. She taught me a lot of life long values.”

One of her current students wrote: “I feel I am learning something when I am in the classroom. And I also feel as if I should be in her class forever. At the end of the day I feel successful and I have learned a lot.”

All of the letters, and other nomination information went to a committee that included representatives from Kansas Association of School Boards, Kansas Association of Secondary School Principals, Kansas Association of Elementary School Principals, Kansas Parent Teacher Association, Kansas National Education Association, United School Administrators, Kappa Delta Pi, the 2013 Master Teacher class, National Teachers Hall of Fame and Center for Innovative School Leadership, who selected the recipients.

The seven teachers will be honored on Master Teacher Day April 2. On that day, the teachers will present a seminar, “Master Teachers: Reflecting Excellence,” at 2:30 p.m. in the W.S. and E.C. Jones Conference Center in Emporia. Then they will be honored during a social hour at 5:15 p.m. in Webb Hall Lobby of Emporia State’s Memorial Union followed by the dinner awards program at 6:30 p.m. in Webb Hall.

Emporia State University established the Kansas Master Teacher awards in 1954. The awards are presented annually to teachers who have served the profession long and well and who also typify the outstanding qualities of earnest and conscientious teachers.


Julie Clements can be reached at