It is safe to say that a class at Michigan State University changed the course of Dan Carr’s life.
Carr first entered the university as an undeclared major, looking forward to discovering his own path through the many opportunities at MSU. It turns out, the path would start in a coaching class taught by none other than legendary MSU basketball coach George “Jud” Heathcote. Heathcote saw something in Carr, and encouraged him to pursue a new opportunity as a volunteer basketball coach for Waverly Community Schools in Lansing. That encouragement led to 19 seasons as a basketball coach, a career as a Spartan educator and receiving the 2016 Educator of the Year Award from the Michigan Lottery’s Excellence in Education Program.
As the winner, Carr, B.A. ’96 (Spanish-Secondary Education) and M.A. ’02 (Curriculum and Teaching), received a $10,000 prize that he is using to “help further education in parts of the world where people aren’t as privileged and don’t have as much opportunity and as many resources as we do. To be able to provide something for them is very near and dear to my heart.”
It is easy to see why Carr is a deserving recipient of this year’s award. He teaches Spanish and sports marketing at Waverly High School in Lansing, and is such a popular teacher that the school added an upper-level Spanish class because so many students wanted to keep learning with him. He is the advisor for the school’s Spanish Honor Society and the orchestrator behind World Language Night, a variety show extravaganza dedicated to celebrating the languages, cultures and diversity of Waverly’s student body and the global community.
“[He is] the most dedicated person and teacher you’ll ever see,” said Waverly High School Principal Chris Huff in a news release. “Dan Carr has a passion for kids and a passion for education. When you go into his classroom, you see all the students engaged in the lesson and kids helping other kids.”
Carr values real-world experiences, and has opportunities in and outside of the classroom to help his students grow, such as bringing in more than 60 guest speakers last year—many from the MSU international community. Another big experience every year is a field trip to World Medical Relief in Detroit. His students take a tour of the facility, and spend several hours organizing packages to send to third-world communities. His students can learn about and see the impact around the world.
Impact plays a big role in Carr’s classroom and career, and it all extends back to his coaching class with Heathcote.
“Teaching is coaching, and coaching is teaching,” Carr explained. “You can make a difference, a type of impact in a person’s life. Maybe you’re teaching them a different immediate skill—such as Spanish or basketball—but you’re also teaching them the same long-term skill. You’re helping people to become better in the world, to grow.”
After winning the award from the Michigan Lottery, Carr thanked several of his previous teachers and professors from MSU who helped him get to where he is today—and he’s spending his career doing the same thing for others.
“Education is so interconnected with other people and their experiences,” he continued. “You can’t measure the seeds that you might plant in your students that may not bloom until five, 10, 20 years down the line. You never know how, when, if or what will change your life or theirs. It is a blessing and an honor and a privilege to be in a job field like that.”