(Posted April 29, 2016)
By Lori Smith, Staff Writer
South Charleston resident Janet Carter grew up in a military family, traveling around the world, and never dreamed she would find her home in a small town in Ohio teaching inmates business skills behind bars.
“I just feel very fortunate to have found a niche where I can practice my passion,” said Carter, who was recently honored on the Ohio Senate floor for receiving the 2015 Correctional Education Association’s Teacher of the Year Award. “It has been a great experience.”
For the last 18 years, Carter has worked as a correctional educator and is currently a career-technical instructor teaching administrative professional sup-port at Madison Correctional Institution in London. Prior to that, she did a little bit of everything, from assembly line work to insurance.
When Carter first started her teaching career, she was a non-degreed technical instructor. Since then, she has obtained an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree in specialized studies with a human relations concentration, a master’s degree in crim-inal justice, and is currently enrolled in Ashland University’s education admini-stration master’s degree program.
“Janet is a model to her students that hard work and determination can and do pay off,” said State Senator Bob Hackett in a written statement. “She exemplifies the type of person who can motivate her students to re-enter the community with the knowledge they have learned prepared to make a fresh beginning in our communities.”
Carter works with an all-male population housed in a medium security level facility. She said their offenses could have been any type of felony, but they have demonstrated good enough behavior to earn the privilege of taking classes.
Her classes are sought after, and there is a waiting list to participate, which makes it rewarding work, Carter noted.
“Education in corrections is a privilege to them,” she said. “By the time they get into the class, they are very thankful to be there and are ready to work hard.”
Carter teaches two classes: an intro-duction to business, where the students learn how to start their own business, as well as how to find and keep a job, and a class on how to use computers and basic programs such as MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
“Many of them have not ever touched a computer before,” she noted.
Carter recently moved classrooms, and called upon one of her students to help move the business equipment. Prior to coming to her class, he had never used a computer, and he was able to help her move and reconnect all the computers without any assistance.
“He jumped up and down, he was so excited that he was able to do it by himself,” she recalled. “It’s not the big successes that make a difference; it’s all the little ones that make it worthwhile to teach in this environment.”
Carter said she has no plans to leave the correctional system anytime soon, although she may move into admini-stration if the opportunity arises. As for her students, she does not know much about if their business studies pay off once they are released.
“I have no way of tracking them upon their release,” she said. “But there have been correctional education success stories, and we hear from them from time to time when they come speak at our conferences.”