By Dale Hemmila
There is something special about Carrie Farnsworth.
First of all, “special” describes her job title. She is a special education teacher at Port Huron Northern High School. She sees every one of her students as special and unique. She treats them all as if they were her own, and that is another way in which Farnsworth is special: a nurturer by nature, she has devoted herself to making life better for young people, literally, all around the world.
As a result of her strong dedication to her job, her students, and to youth everywhere, Farnsworth has been named Blue Water Woman Educator of the Year. She was nominated by her husband, and fellow educator, Gordie Farnsworth.
In her 17th year of leading a special education classroom, Farnsworth has a passion for teaching and working with kids who have special needs. She uses practical methods to impart abilities they can use for life.
“We work on adaptive skills, how they are doing in the community,” she said. “We work on daily living skills, social skills, job skills and we try to sneak in some academics like math skills as well. We provide academics through practical real-life experience.”
It is obvious that Farnsworth has a strong devotion to her profession and to those she calls “my kids,” even though she initially did not have any interest in teaching.
“I never wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I wanted to go into some kind of management.”
Her mind was changed when she spent time working in a group home for developmentally disabled adults while in college.
“I loved the population; they were so loving, it doesn’t matter what the disability is. And they have so much to offer to the community. Their success stories make my heart smile. We say that a lot here. It’s making someone’s heart smile, making their day.
“I love seeing these guys after high school out in the community, working and having a job,” she said. Each one of these guys can do something. And I teach them what I teach my own two kids. You need to be kind and thoughtful. They aren’t any different than anyone else who needs a job.”
Farnsworth also helps her students with activities outside of the classroom and work environment.
According to her husband’s nomination: “Carrie has been instrumental in helping to create a climate at Port Huron Northern that is inclusive. She helped create a program called ‘Lunch Buddies’ that brings together special education students with other students who serve as ‘lunch buddies,’ once a week during the lunch hour. Not only has this been a great program for her students, but it has been life-changing for the lunch buddies, as well.
Farnsworth’s dedication to young people extends far beyond her classroom, though.
In his nomination, her husband noted that she volunteers for a youth group, and many of the students call her “Mama Farns.” She has welcomed foreign exchange students into her home, and she spent several summers as “camp mom” for hundreds of students at a camp for international students.
“Carrie also supports a child in Ghana through Compassion International, and she provides support for SONS Outreach Ministry in our community. She was also recently trained to be a coach for Special Olympics,” the nomination noted.
“Carrie also works as a job coach through Touchstone Services. There, she has the opportunity to work with students who have learning disabilities or special needs. She has a heart for those who may need extra help to succeed, and spends much of her time serving those in need.
“It is evident that Carrie has many maternal gifts and she has used them to help raise hundreds of children.”
Farnsworth is quick to acknowledge the support she receives from her principal and assistant principal: “They are amazing people and allow me to do what I do,” she said.
But it is clear it is the students in her classroom who fuel her dedication.
“It’s that love,” she said. “When you know it’s sincere; that’s how I come to school.”