Over the past 11 years, Carrie (Troha) Takarsh has been instructing sixth grade students in science and language arts at Aylor Middle School in Stephens City, Va.
Also during that same period, she has coached cross-country and mentored students through the school's Spartans Helping Spartans program.
"It’s exciting to watch the students grow during their first year of middle school. As they make the transition from elementary to middle, they change emotionally, socially and physically," Takarsh said. "The difference in nine months is amazing!"
Takarsh, 34, currently resides in Martinsburg, W.V. with her husband David, who is a high school teacher. She added that as a fellow teacher, her husband is a great resource, as she often consults with him about ideas for the classroom.
She is the daughter of Jeanne and Frank Troha and is the eldest sibling of Kristen and Mike Troha.
A 1995 graduate of St. Marys Area High School, Takarsh earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from St. Bonaventure University in 1999 and a masters degree in the education of exceptional persons in 2000 from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she worked as a graduate assistant at the University School of IUP.
In addition, Takarsh has participated in a variety of workshops and classes, including Spanish and technology, as part of the requirement that teachers must complete 180 hours of re-certification points every five years. She also enjoys attending conferences to bring new ideas back to her classroom.
While at Aylor, Takarsh spent nine years as a special education teacher, where she taught self-contained classes for students with primarily learning disabilities.
She explained that reaching students of different abilities and keeping them motivated and challenged is one of the major obstacles of her job.
"Two years ago I was looking for a change and transferred into a regular education position at my school," she said. "Aylor is set up by teams. It's great to have a close network of people to share resources and ideas."
Among one of her most memorable experiences was when the sixth grade team took 85 students to Martinsburg VA Medical Center, where students thanked veterans and presented them with gift bags which they assembled.
"It was such a rewarding experience to see the students honoring the veterans for their service and making a personal connection," Takarsh said.
While deciding on a career, Takarsh drew on her own personal experience.
"I had some amazing teachers as I went through school. I wanted to help spark the same love of learning in others," she said.
For those interested in pursuing a career as a teacher, Takarsh advises them to find something they love to do and spend time volunteering or observing in classrooms, as she noted, "There's always something new to learn!"
Takarsh said she feels very lucky to have grown up in a small, beautiful town like St. Marys.
"The schools are excellent and provide a great education," she said. "The teachers in the St. Marys Area School District served as great role models and helped to inspire a lifelong love of learning."
Takarsh noted that she and her husband enjoy the area so much they purchased a camp last year and look forward to spending the summer in the area, relaxing with family and friends and enjoying the Pennsylvania outdoors.
While growing up in St. Marys, Takarsh worked at Memorial Park for four years during her college career. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys traveling, running, reading, quilting and spending time at camp with family and friends.