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2020 Dennis Lesh Teacher of the Year awarded to Carmen Forest

15 July 2020

Each year, Pratt Community College (PCC) awards a faculty member the Dennis Lesh Foundation Teacher Recognition Award at commencement. The prestigious award is based on nominations from students, faculty and staff.

Carmen Forest, PE/Wellness instructor, won the award this year.

Forest began working at PCC in 1984. At PCC Forest has coached volleyball, basketball, was the athletic director and is currently a full-time instructor. In 1986 PCC started the Wellness program; during that time, Forest was the mentor for the program.

Forest was born in Stillwater, Okla. Growing up, Forest and her family moved around many times due to her father’s job. Throughout their many moves, they stayed around the Midwest. Her family later moved to Saint Louis, Mo. Forest attended college at the University of Missouri-Saint Louis where she obtained her bachelor’s of science degree. While at the University of Missouri-Saint Louis, the opportunity arose to start a team handball National Program in 1974. Forest was then selected as one of the 25 players for the National Team. Forest and her team began competing and training for competitions and the Olympics.

After completing her bachelor’s degree, Forest completed her master’s degree in 1979 from Oklahoma State University. While completing her master’s degree in Health Physical Education Recreation, Forest was also a graduate teaching internship and training in handball with her team. After completing her master’s degree, she met Jim Krob from Lindsborg, Kan. Krob later sent Forest a letter letting her know that Bethany College was looking for a volleyball coach and she should apply.

Forest applied for the volleyball coach position and was offered the position. While at Bethany College, Forest was the head volleyball coach, head softball coach and assistant basketball coach. Alongside coaching at Bethany College, Forest was also an instructor. She taught Exercise Physiology, Kinesiology and activity classes.

During the summer of 1981, Forest’s team committed to getting ready for the 1984 Olympic games that were to be hosted in the United States. Forest’s team then moved to New Jersey, and the team lived together. While in New Jersey, Forest secured a job pumping gas at a gas station. Forest would wake up at 6:00 a.m. and go to work from 7:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. after work, she would complete a workout then complete the team workout. Forest followed this routine for a year and a half. Forest and her team then moved to Lake Placid and the team trained until the spring of 1984. Forest then placed her belongings in storage, boarded a plane and moved to Los Angeles. In Los Angeles she tried out for the Olympic team and made it. After making the team, Forest and her team traveled and completed for the next four months before being processed as Olympians and completing in the Olympics.

“It was so fun to be the hometown athlete in 1984,” said Forest.

Two weeks after the closing ceremony at the 1984 Olympic Games, Forest moved to Pratt, Kan. to begin teaching at PCC.

“It was what I was looking for, a small town,” said Forest. “I love my job and what I teach. Some things evolve and you have to stay on top of it. Its fun to be challenged to stay on top of things and make sure the information is 90% accurate or better.”

When Forest was asked what her favorite part about teaching is, she said that she likes getting to know the students and their likes and dislikes.
“It gives me a reason and purpose to get up in the morning,” said Forest. “I love the interaction and diversity on campus. I love my job and I know PCC cares, everyone cares.”

The mission of Pratt Community College is maximum student learning, individual and workforce development, high quality instruction and service, and community enrichment.