Cara Lake said it’s been a long time since she has won an award.

In fact, prior to this week, the last award she won was for the best laugh in the 2004 graduating class at Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park, Kansas.

Her most recent award most likely trumps that.

Lake recently was named the elementary teacher of the year in the Leavenworth school district.

“I’ve never won anything like this before,” said Lake, a third-grade teacher at Anthony Elementary School. “It’s a big surprise and a big honor.”

Lake was nominated by her peers and was the top vote-getter among other nominees from each of Leavenworth’s five elementary schools.

“I’ve always wanted to be an elementary school teacher,” said Lake. “I love having the chance to build a foundation with the students and get them set up for success. I love what I do. I get to work with kids and families and great colleagues building relationships. We take the time to get to know all of the kids in the building.”

Lake said one of her favorite lesson plans for her third-grade students was an Ellis Island simulation.

Students took on the roles of immigrants coming to Ellis Island and U.S. immigration workers. On the next day, the students switched roles.

“It gave the kids a chance to see what the immigrants went through and the problems they had when they were coming to this country,” she said.

Lake has been an elementary teacher for 10 years, including the last five at Anthony.

“Cara Lake is a teacher-leader not only at Anthony Elementary but districtwide,” said Superintendent Mike Roth in an email. “She is an outstanding mentor for our newest teachers and demonstrates a willingness to be innovative to meet the needs of her students. Mrs. Lake’s classes are engaged and supported both academically and socially, and they are eager to return each and every day.”

Lake will not be a classroom teacher next year. She said she will work as the school’s interventionist, working with students who need academic assistance.