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Las Vegas teacher wins $10K prize in Crayola contest

Manuel Mathis’ second-grade classroom at Challenger School’s Silverado campus is colorful and welcoming. White boards contain details of daily lessons; images of Spider-Man and Black Panther highlight bulletin boards where students’ work is posted; and tacked up in front is that horizontal letter printing guide that’s been a fixture of every grade school classroom since the alphabet was invented.

But as welcoming as Mathis’ classroom is now, it’s likely to become even more colorful when it undergoes a revamp that comes courtesy of student Carson Redford.

A few months ago, Carson, 8, entered the “Thank A Teacher Contest” sponsored by the makers of Crayola Crayons, illustrating why Mathis is his favorite teacher. Carson’s entry was a winner and, as a prize, Mathis’ classroom will receive a $10,000 makeover (with the option that some of the money can be used throughout the school).

Challenger School also will receive a one-year supply of Crayola products, Carson received a $1,000 scholarship, and Mathis and the school each won a $1,000 gift card.

Carson, 8, says he was inspired to enter the contest first because “I just like entering contests and I like getting the prizes.”

Carson’s entry features a multicolored brain — built upon the contest’s cloud motif — and the words “Thank you! … for making learning colorful” surrounded by icons denoting “everything I learned from this school.”

Carson’s other inspiration: That Mathis is “a phenomenal teacher.”

Mathis, sitting beside Carson, smiles at the comment. “That’s a good adjective,” he says.

Carson says he was “really excited” when he learned that he had won the contest. “My mom told me I won it,” he says. “Then I was dancing all over the house.”

News of the win — and of the contest itself — also surprised Mathis. He recalls receiving a call a few weeks ago from a Crayola representative.

“I didn’t know anything about it,” Mathis says. “Honestly, for a day or two I just ignored it.”

A few days later, the representative called again, saying she’d email him a form to fill out.

“Thankfully, my wife is connected to my email,” Mathis says. “My wife goes, ‘I think you won something.’ ”

“We didn’t know the contest existed,” adds Sarah Shurko, the school’s headmaster.

But, Shurko adds, “all of the pieces made sense when I saw how great (Carson’s) drawing was.”

Mathis, 31, has been at Challenger School for five years, teaching kindergarten his first year and second grade for the past four. He calls Carson’s tribute to him “really humbling.”

“Teaching takes so much work. You’re in the classroom, you have work you take home, you put so much time into it,” he says, so it’s gratifying “to know your investment in these little lives means something.”

“We know that our teachers are wonderful. We see the work they put in every day,” Shurko says. “But just to see (Carson) win this contest, seeing the lengths he went to to create this thing inspired by his teacher, is very heartwarming.”

“We appreciate all of our teachers all the time, but this just really brings into focus what an impact they have on children in the classroom.”

Contact John Przybys at jprzybys @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

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