When Roberta C. Cartwright, the namesake of Cartwright Elementary School, became Clark County’s Teacher of the Year in 1986, she was known as a person who was unafraid of joy in her classroom.
“We laugh a lot in class,” Cartwright said in an article in the April 4, 1986, Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It isn’t goofing off. I want them relaxed. I only have one rule: When I talk, they listen. And when they talk, I listen. To me, the way I teach is nothing special. It’s just the way I am.”
Apparently, she was one of the few who didn’t think her teaching style was special. The Clark County School District received dozens of letters recommending Cartwright for the honor, including ones from students, parents, teachers and administrators.
At the time, Cartwright was teaching writing and English literature at Chaparral High School, 3850 Annie Oakley Drive. Several of her students said Cartwright made them interested in a subject about which they were previously unenthusiastic. In an age before 24-hour Internet access, Cartwright gave her students her home phone number so they could call if they needed help with the work.
“My students are young adults,” Cartwright said in the article. “They deserve to be treated as such, and I like them. I learn so much from them. They are so wide-eyed and innocent in some ways and so knowledgeable in others.”
She began teaching in 1970. Neither of her parents graduated from high school, and Cartwright felt that because of this, they valued education all the more and were proud to have their daughter enter the field of education.
Cartwright had joined the staff at Valley High School, 2839 S. Burnham Ave., by the time she received a Milken Educator Award in 1993. Representatives from the Milken Family Foundation, which awards educators for teaching excellence, like to call the award the “Oscars of teaching.”
Cartwright Elementary School, 1050 E. Gary Ave., opened during the 1996-97 school year at a time when the valley was going through explosive growth. Brian Cram, who served as superintendent for the Clark County School District from 1989 to 2000, said more than 100 schools were built during his tenure.
“We were doing a lot of renovation and building, and there were a lot of challenges we had to rise to because of that,” Cram said. “Fortunately, finding worthy people to name them after wasn’t a problem.”
The school has about 730 students, and growth has continued so strongly in the neighborhood that a second school, Gehring Elementary, opened next door in 2002. The two schools share a playground.
Cartwright died in 1994, two years before the school was named for her. The walls in the school’s lobby are covered with quotes by and about Cartwright. Teaching writing was a lifelong passion for her.
“I know it sounds corny, but I really love to teach writing,” Cartwright said in the 1986 article. “The ability to communicate, to make someone laugh, or cry, is what we’ve got going for us.”
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.