Public Education Matters

When he started his teaching career in a pre-K classroom, Columbus Education Association member Larry Carey started a mission to introduce robust vocabulary to his young students who otherwise would likely not have access to rich language opportunities. Although his job title has changed, that work continues with Carey's new children's book, which he is sharing as part of OEA-Retired's Read Across America campaign this year. Carey shares his journey, including why he got involved in OEA-R years before he plans to retire himself.

Show Notes

The ABCs of CEA's Larry Carey - Season 3, Episode 19
When he started his teaching career in a pre-K classroom, Columbus Education Association member Larry Carey started a mission to introduce robust vocabulary to his young students who otherwise would likely not have access to rich language opportunities. Although his job title has changed, that work continues with Carey's new children's book, which he is sharing as part of OEA-Retired's Read Across America campaign this year. Carey shares his journey, including why he got involved in OEA-R years before he plans to retire himself. 

GET THE BOOK | Larry Carey's book, Alliteration Boosts Communication, is available for purchase on Amazon or Book Baby now.

WATCH | To see the videos OEA-R members created for the 2022 Read Across America campaign, click here.

SUBSCRIBE | Click here to subscribe to Education Matters on Apple Podcasts or click here to subscribe on Google podcasts so you don't miss a thing. And don't forget you can listen to all of the previous episodes anytime on your favorite podcast platform, or by clicking here.

Featured Education Matters guest: 
  • Larry Carey, Columbus Education Association member
    • Mr. Larry Carey is a first year PBIS Coordinator in Columbus City Schools. Prior to this role, he was acting as a teacher on special assignment for the NEA Organizing Fellowship Academy. This exclusive fellowship selected only twelve educators across the country to learn the role of organizing and how to engage, assist, and support educators throughout the United States.
    • Mr. Carey’s journey began as a student in the Columbus City Schools, where he attended Indianola Elementary, Johnson Park Middle, and graduated from Eastmoor Academy in 2003. Upon receiving his bachelor’s degree in Communication, it only took him a few years to realize that he was not walking in his purpose. In 2014, after working as a Pre-Kindergarten instructional assistant and library aide, Mr. Carey enrolled back in college to obtain his teaching license to pursue his goal as an Early Childhood Educator.
    • During the pandemic, Mr. Carey, an admitted perfectionist, began trying to find other ways to make sure his scholars were learning. He created a YouTube channel for those students who may not have had access to a computer but had access to a tablet or phone. He also began completing the final touches to his book Alliteration Boosts Communication: The ABCs of Vocabulary.
    • This book was two years in the making. He got the idea to write the book from one of the Step-Up observers, who was impressed by his scholars knowing the words elated and melancholy. These words along with a plethora of other high-level vocabulary were what he frequently used in the classroom. There, he began writing down alliterations for every letter. He made sure to use vocabulary words that scholars would not regularly hear in their daily communication. To assist with comprehension of the vocabulary, he also includes the meanings of each word with a well-conceived illustration that helps to explain the meaning.
    • After publishing his book, Mr. Carey created companion activities that align to the National Standards for fellow educators that range from Pre-Kindergarten to 8th grade. A vast number of the activities focus on letter recognition, sounds, colors, identifying what is occurring in the illustrations, and of course, vocabulary! For the higher grade levels, vocabulary and creating their own alliteration is key to mastery. These activities along with the book can be found on his website:
Connect with OEA:
About us:
  • The Ohio Education Association represents about 120,000 teachers, faculty members and support professionals who work in Ohio’s schools, colleges, and universities to help improve public education and the lives of Ohio’s children. OEA members provide professional services to benefit students, schools, and the public in virtually every position needed to run Ohio’s schools.
  • Education Matters host Katie Olmsted serves as Media Relations Consultant for the Ohio Education Association. She joined OEA in May 2020, after a ten-year career as an Emmy Award winning television reporter, anchor, and producer. Katie comes from a family of educators and is passionate about telling educators' stories and advocating for Ohio's students. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and two young children.
This episode was recorded on January 4, 2023.

What is Public Education Matters?

Ohio's public schools serve 1.6 million children - 90 percent of students in the state! What happens in the classroom has impacts far beyond the walls of the K-12 school building or higher ed lecture hall. So, on behalf of the 120,000 members of the Ohio Education Association, we're taking a deeper dive into some of the many education issues facing our students, educators, and communities. Originally launched in 2021 as Education Matters, Public Education Matters is your source for insightful conversations with the people who shape the education landscape in Ohio. Have a topic you'd like to hear about on Public Education Matters? Email us at

Intro 0:07
This is Education Matters, brought to you by the Ohio Education Association.

Katie Olmsted 0:15
Welcome back to Education Matters. I'm Katie Olmsted and I'm part of the communications team for the Ohio Education Association, which represents nearly 120,000 teachers, education support professionals and higher ed faculty members around the state. One of the reasons I love doing these Education Matters podcasts every week is because we get to talk to those OEA members and shine the spotlight on what some of our amazing members are doing every single day. This week's guest, of course, is no stranger to that spotlight. In fact, he was featured in radio and streaming TV spots statewide just a few weeks ago was part of OEA's ongoing Education Champions campaign. Let's listen.

Education Champions radio spot - Scott DiMauro 1:00
The Ohio Education Association congratulates Larry Carey, a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports coordinator in Columbus City Schools, this week's Education Champion,

Education Champions radio spot - Larry Carey 1:10
The reason why I wanted to be a PBIS coordinator for the district is it was all about relationships, keeping those relationships with teachers, educators, and stakeholders. I'm super passionate about that. I still can get to go into a classroom and maybe work one on one with a student, I still get to train teachers on how to build those relationships. That's why I do it.

Katie Olmsted 1:30
As you heard there, Larry Carey is a PBIS coordinator in Columbus these days. But he's also a children's book author. And he's pretty involved with OEA-Retired, joining that group years before he plans to retire himself. And I have questions about that. So to find out more about all that and more, we asked Larry to join us for this podcast.

Larry Carey, thank you so much for joining us for this episode of the podcast. We have so much to talk about today. But I want to start with what you're doing now as your normal day job. You're a PBIS coordinator. What exactly is that?

Larry Carey 2:14
Hi, everybody, Larry Carey here. My title is district PBIS coordinator for Columbus City Schools and PBIS stands for Positive Behavior Intervention Supports. So pretty much my main job is to go into a building and help build that culture and climate for educators and students. Also, for stakeholders and families. That's my main job. Also building that relationship and getting those expectations for the students to succeed. And that came about with House Bill 318, which was the PBIS bill, which states that we had to do PBIS across the state of Ohio. So that's what that is, we work with the TFR, which is a walkthrough - Tiered Fidelity Inventory.

Katie Olmsted 2:58
So what has your experience been in this role in terms of the difference you see with your kids through this particular program?

Larry Carey 3:06
My experience in this role so far is just still seeing the excitement on kids and kids, students and teachers coming together to work out expectations, getting that student voice because it's a lot about getting that student voice. So coming up with expectations together and following through. So for example, today I was in the classroom, and I had a meeting at first in the morning, and then I got to observe the classroom. And when a student kinda got out of line a little bit, the teacher pointed to the wall and said, 'Hey, what does respect look like? Like, you know, that's one of our expectations we came up with together, so tell me what it means to be respectful.' And that student said it kind of got back in line was like, 'I'm sorry, I got overexcited.' So those are great experiences.

Katie Olmsted 3:50
And of course, you are very used to dealing with kids who get overly excited. I know before you became the PBIS coordinator, you got your start as a teacher as a pre-K teacher in Columbus. What was that like?

Larry Carey 4:05
Oh pre-K, I miss it sometimes. I love pre-K. I got my start in Columbus City Schools as a teacher in pre-k and if you go back, I was - I started off as a substitute teacher and I subbed in the pre K classroom got hired, and became a pre-K IA, and decided to go back to school to get my license and I got my license to be a pre-K teacher. So it was fun. I love pre-K! Pre-K was one of those grades where kids came in not knowing too much. And when they left, they can tell you where Jupiter is and how many rings it has. Or, Ceres is in the Astroid Belt. It was funny because these kids are - they soak in so much information. And in my classroom, we had a high expectation. So that's where the book came from, actually teaching pre-K. That's where the idea came from, and Step Up to Quality.

Katie Olmsted 4:08
Okay, so I love that you mentioned the book and we're gonna come right back to that. But first, I want to talk to you a little bit more about your experience in that pre-K classroom because as a Black male educator, there are - we know, the education workforce in Ohio is overwhelmingly white and it's overwhelmingly female. So there are very few Black male educators to start with. And then when we take that into the pre-K level, I feel like you were a bit of a unicorn in that role. There are very, very few. Why was it so important to you to be in that role?

Larry Carey
It is important because most times kids don't get a positive image or a positive role model that looks like them. Me being a Black educator, I became that father figure, I became that role model for them at an early age. In Columbus City Schools, I think when I was there, and I'm not sure now, there were only two black metal pre K teachers. And I think there was one other male teacher that was a pre K teacher. So yes, we're in meetings in order in a room full of women, which are cool, but it was like just us. So when those kids come in and they see us they can be like, Oh, that's a man! I can be like him! Because you know, my classroom, you can be anything you want to be. We, you know, we did imaginary things and say, Hey, if you dream it, thank you, you can do it. So

Katie Olmsted 6:20
And if you see it, you can be it. That's why that representation matters.

Larry Carey 6:25
Yeah. And me being there, them seeing me, like I said, I became a father figure to them. I became that role model. And they were my kids. I treated them as I treat my two children.

Katie Olmsted 6:38
And you're still continuing to serve that population. As you mentioned, you have a book called Alliteration Boosts Communication, and it is an ABCs book that is just so wonderfully delightful. I'm gonna take a minute right now and just play a little clip from the book. Take a listen.

Larry Carey, reading Alliteration Boosts Communication in video recorded for OEA-R Read Across America campaign 7:00
E - Elated educators embrace eccentric expressions. F - Felicitous family feels faithfully festive. G - Gracefully giving God gratifying glory. H - Humorous humanitarians have hysterical homes.

Katie Olmsted 7:22
Larry, I just love it so much. I, I was listening to these just fun turns of phrases here. It is not your typical ABCs book, it is a high level of vocabulary. Why was that something you wanted to do?

Larry Carey 7:39
Well, one of the things I did in my classroom when I taught pre-K, and this is actually true storage gave me the idea to spark my brain to write it. Pre K in the state of Ohio is run by Step Up to Quality. Step Up to Quality comes in, I believe, every three years, and we do have visits. One year, we had a visit, and actually was going to start off, it started off pretty bad. And I'm blessed that a turned around. I had a TBT - teachers know what TBT is. Teacher Based Training. Yeah. So I wasn't even my classroom. I didn't know my IA called off that day. So the special needs pre K teacher sent her IA over. So when I get to the room, the state person from Step Up is in my room. I'm like, Oh, my goodness. And my room was chaotic. But everybody knows me, if you go into my classroom, I have work everywhere. So I put up the work that we're doing. And then I take it down and replace it with new stuff. But I keep it up. That way the kids can see what they do. That way when their parents come in, they can see what they've done, and it was exciting. Off topic. Sorry. So we get in the room, she's in there and she's like, What is going on? Now, we're in compliance because there's only 11 kids, but you know, the special needs IA is in the room, holding it down for me. And I'm like, this is gonna be a very melancholy day. Now I use those words in my kids because like I said, four and five year olds are geniuses, they'll pick up anything. And she looked at me like, 'Isn't that a little bit developmentally inappropriate to use those words?' And I was like, 'No, they're sponges.' And my kid came over and togged my shirt and said Mr. Carey, don't be sad. And I jumped up like, 'Boy, you just made me elated!' And the whole classroom: 'Mr. Carey happy y'all!' And she looked around my room and she's seen all the work and she said, 'Well, I do know there's learning going on here. So this is what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna come back. This visit didn't happen,' and she came back we got five stars. But it helped because at that particular time, I was bringing in a whole new culture and climate for Trevitt anyway for my pre K classroom. Because prior to me going to Trevitt we didn't they didn't we didn't pass the inspection or you know, we didn't have five stars for Step Up. My whole tenure at Trevitt we got five stars twice, even though last year, it was a team effort because I was in a fellowship. So but yeah.

Katie Olmsted 9:57
That started this idea for your book, but a book is way more than just an idea, it's a lot of hard work to get it to where you are now. Talk to me a little bit about that process.

Larry Carey 10:06
So this book was two years in the making. That started it. And I remember looking like, Man, I should do something with alliterations. Because I've seen a book, I forget what it was called, but it was an alliteration book. And it was something like Apple ate apricot, there was something small, you know, and I'm like, I want my kids to learn words. Our kids, in general, don't get the vocabulary words. But when I do the presentations with with districts about my book, there's a slide that talks about my why, right? So total words heard by age four, you know, professional family higher-end 1%: 45 million words that they hear before the age of four. Working class families: 26 million words. And I believe poverty is about 13 million words. And I work in a district where most of our kids are on free and reduced lunch, consider poverty. So I want to make sure they heard high level vocabulary workds like ambitious, agitate, agile, bodacious, callous - it was contentious but I changed it; I changed it so many times. Lethargic. Lethargic is negative, but still, to kind of know what that - Loquacious, umbrageous. Those are all vocabulary words that are in my book that they would hear and learn and also break down.

Katie Olmsted 11:15
Those stats that you brought up, I think really speak to the need for this. We know there is an achievement gap when we're talking about standardized testing, which is a whole different kettle of fish, if you will, but we do know that there is an achievement gap based very strongly on the socio economic factors for a family, and people who come from families of poverty, their parents are holding down so many jobs, they don't have the time those those very wealthy families do in terms of just having that access to the words. Your book is for everyone. And I think that is so important. How has it been received by everyone so far?

Larry Carey 12:07
So far, I've gotten good reviews. I made the book from pre K to eighth. It's mostly targeted, of course, to early Childhood, Elementary, being an ABC book, but there is activities for older kids, older students. And yes, the misconception, like even when I was at Trevitt, was our families are not working, or parents are not working. And I had families working two to three jobs. So it was kind of hard for them to get home and work on, you know, homework or iReady or something with kids. So I love the fact that you said that. But yes, I made it for pre K through eighth. And it's just you know, it's good hearing kids walk around and say, Hey, Mr. Carey, I'm elated today, or you know, hey, Mr. Carey. I'm feeling really really bodacious.

Katie Olmsted 12:54
I love it. I have an almost four year old and he - some of the words that he says sometimes I just cannot believe that came out of a child's mouth, and not always the four letter words that I am ashamed to say he's learned from me. I see exactly what you mean about kids just being absolutely able to absorb this if they're given access to it.

Larry Carey 13:20

Katie Olmsted 13:21
One of the ways you are increasing access to these words and to this vocabulary, and this really just fun experience of reading your book is you've read it as part of this upcoming Read Across America campaign with OEA-R, OEA-Retired. So you've already recorded you reading your own book, and it will be up as part of that campaign on Facebook on YouTube. There's a website. That's all going to start in March. But wait a second. You are an active teacher. Wait a second. Why are you in OEA-R?

Larry Carey 13:55
I met OEA-R - Some of you may know this and some of you don't. Prior to me taking getting invited to the NEA Organizing Fellowship Academy, which I did last year, which was great, I was part of ONE, the Ohio New Educators. And one of my jobs in one was to partner up with OEA-R to do a lot of initiatives to get retired teachers to kind of mentor the newer teachers, the educators. So that was my job there. So always me and Mr. Phil [Long] always had a good relationship. So that's where doing a lot of things OEA-R came from. And even as an organizer last year for NEA, OEA, I got to work with them. So I always got still got to do things with Mr. Phil and OEA-R, so when he asked like hey, you have a book want to support. Do you mind reading this? Yes, anything for you! Because you helped out us when we needed help. I'll be there for you. That's part of being in a union, that sisterhood, brotherhood, that, you know, love for each other. So that's that's the gist of it.

Katie Olmsted 15:02
I don't know how many active educators realize that you don't have to retire to join OEA-R.

Larry Carey 15:10

Katie Olmsted 15:11
What is the benefit for you of being a member of OEA-R now? It's one thing to you know, is thank Phil Long for his help while you were a ONE member, it is another thing to be an active member like you are.

Larry Carey 15:24
Yes, um, one of the benefits is you're gonna get some wisdom, you're gonna get to learn about STRS, your retirement. They're gonna talk talk to you about that, how you can be an advocate, how you can also be an advocate as a whole of going down and getting bills at the state level, the House bills and Senate bills. And there's also that recruitment piece as well. Like, you can be a member OEA-R and not be retired, but initially, you're a member OEA, you're going to be part of that anyway when you retire so you want to work with those group of people build those relationships with so group of people get that wisdom for that group of people. Because, like you've learned things - We're Forever Learners, and I'll learn from so many people in OEA-R, not just in OEA, but OEA-R, too, about how things was, the history, how we can make this better, suggestions on other things. So those are all great reasons to join OEA-R. If you haven't joined it, go ahead and join it, and also be part of your Union as a whole. OEA.

Katie Olmsted 16:22
What are some of the things that you learn from being around the retirees?

Larry Carey 16:28
One of the biggest lessons - I mean, this goes back from just anything union-related was your relationships matter, right? Really, that's the biggest lesson I've learned. Relationships matter. They matter so much in this line of work, they matter so much when you're advocating, building those relationships with with state reps, with state senators with with Congresswomen, Congressmen. Those relationships matter. It matters in your classroom It matters getting - you know, going back to the classroom level, if you don't have a relationship with that student, how can you teach that student? If you don't have a relationship with that parent, how can you communicate with that parent? They got to know you care. Once they know you care, you can do you can do - you can teach the ocean and they're gonna dive into you because they know you cared and now you have their best interest. So the biggest lesson I'll take away from that is relationship matters.

Katie Olmsted 17:24
Larry, you've mentioned your role last year with OEA and NEA, what exactly did you do and why?

Larry Carey 17:32
Okay, so last year, September 15, was my actually last time in the classroom for pre-K and then I transitioned to the NOFA Fellowship, which 12 educators across the country were invited and I was one of the 12. Out of Ohio. Well, I was the only one out of Ohio but one of 12 across the country. What NOFA stands for is the NEA Organizing Fellowship Academy. So I was invited to do to learn the role of an organizer through NEA, and I got to work with OEA, so I got trained by Will Klatt, which was a great organizer at OEA. Now he's a labor relations consultant. And I did that for a whole year. I got to work on array of projects. I did three strikes. I got to work when the Geneva strike, help organize that as a site captain, you know, was there. The Minneapolis strike in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that was for NEA and also got to help plan the CEA strike, our strike in Columbus, Ohio. So that was a great experience. I also got to do a lot of professional development trainings, were actually got to facilitate trainings about relationship building, about classroom management for for our members. There's so many things I got to do. It was such a great role. I learned a lot. I got to advocate, help out on campaigns. So we got a ESC board member elected. I got to help with Congresswoman Sykes election up in Akron, not work with her campaign per se but help out because, you know, DNC in, you know, organize them. I learned a lot. It was a ton of ton of stuff I learned. So it was a good, it was a good role.

Katie Olmsted 19:18
And then coming back to the classroom after that experience. What difference does that make for you and your students now?

Larry Carey 19:27
Coming back, the district was like we heard you were leaving, we know you have all this experience. So they were like, apply for this position, which was the district PBIS coordinator position, which is it's a lot similar, right? I still get to do professional development, basically on culture and climate. Also relationship building. You know, we talked about that relationship part, the TFR, working with the state on the TFR, the Tiered Fidelity Inventory, making sure that that self assessment is filled out correctly, that our teachers, our educators in those schools - I have 19 buildings. I'm primary for 10, secondary for the other nine, but 19 buildings that were all in Region 2, making sure as teachers understand what the state is looking for. So those are some of the things that we share with them in that TFR, there's the TFR one, two and three. In Ohio. It's bronze, silver and gold. So our goal for Columbus City Schools is to get, of course, all our schools starred at least bronze. Right now, we have 44 buildings out of 113 Bronze Stars, not bronze, i'm sorry, starred. And you go back to 2017. You only have one.

Katie Olmsted 20:33
That's making a lot of progress.

Larry Carey 20:35
Yes, yes. Now, especially with culture and climate.

Katie Olmsted 20:39
We are so grateful to have our ongoing relationship with you, Larry. You're always so involved and so helpful. And it is, it has truly been wonderful to just see all you're able to accomplish all the time. I'm in awe. Thank you so much.

Larry Carey 20:54
No, thank you. I appreciate it. I'm in awe with y'all and in awe with you, with the work that you do, to making sure to get that message out that hey, the union cares, your union matters. And we care about education as a whole, not just in Ohio, but across the country.

Katie Olmsted 21:13
If you'd like to get a copy of Larry's book, you can find the link in the show notes for this episode. We also have links to the OEA-R Read Across America landing page, where you can check out the books the OEA-R members read last year, and keep an eye out for the new additions that will be added there this spring. And while you're online, send me an email at I want to hear from you about what you think of this podcast, what you want to hear in the future and how we can help make sure this message and this medium best serves you knew Education Matters episodes drop every Thursday morning and you can find them wherever you get your podcasts. Until next time, stay well

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