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WAUKEE, Iowa — His days of coaching college and high school football are over. Coach Michael Carnes is now Mr. Carnes, teaching fifth grade at Walnut Hills Elementary School.

When it was time for a change in careers, he says it was a no brainer what he wanted to do next.

“The biggest similarity is that they all want you to care about them and they want you to know that you have their back no matter what. The more you can connect with them and build the relationships, they know they care about you and they will work their tails off for you,” says Carnes.

Carnes and his team of 5th graders were forced to play by a different set of rules this year. When the pandemic flipped normal on its head, Carnes wouldn’t let it. He kept in touch with students, even on the weekends when spring break turned into virtual learning. Once back in class, he never skipped a beat.

“After all it’s still an eight-hour teaching day.  The kids are so resilient to things and they persevere through so much. They teach us how to cope with things.”

His students describe him as the teacher that goes above and beyond which led to him receiving the Golden Apple. Walnut Hills Principal, Dr. Greg Carenza says Mr. Carnes is the type of team player that adds depth to any roster.

“I think for those teachers that come from another career before this, there is just something passionate inside of them. Some kind of calling that they want to serve and so that maybe just gives them a perspective about why making a difference with kids was really right move from them in the first place. It can be so rewarding.”

You can check out all the amazing Golden Apple Award winners or nominate a teacher you believe is deserving here.