Devin Ayers did a delighted double take when he heard that his colleague Eric Carlson was receiving a Teachers Who Inspire award during a schoolwide assembly Wednesday morning at the Academy for Technology and the Classics.

Seconds later, Ayers let loose with another double take after he heard that he was receiving the award, too.

The two teachers are the first of six educators honored this year by Partners in Education, which has given Teachers Who Inspire awards to Santa Fe instructors for the past 22 years. An anonymous donor puts up the $1,200 check for each teacher and urges them not to spend the money on anything for the classroom. The teachers also receive a plaque of recognition.

Carlson, who has been teaching music at the charter school for four years, accepted the award with a brief, “Thank you very much.”

Ayers, who has taught English at the school for six years, managed a few more words, saying, “There’s no place I’ve ever been where I’ve been happier.”

Students and adults alike cheered and congratulated the two men, who seemed to be still waking up during the early morning event, held outdoors behind the school on Avan Nu Po Road.

Ayers, at least, had a cup of coffee in his hand. “I don’t know if I cognizised it yet,” he said in his brief speech, perhaps stumbling over a word.

Of his short acceptance speech, Carlson said, “I didn’t want to gloat.”

Partners in Education surprises winning teachers at public events during the last month of school. Winning teachers are nominated by anonymous peers, who are usually (but not always) fellow educators in the same school. Carlson’s nomination letter spoke of his ability to use different kinds of music to inspire his students artistically and help them excel in other subject matters, including history and English. Ayer’s nomination letter praised his Socratic seminars and his individual commitment to each of his students, and commended his “humor, honesty and approachability.”

The Connecticut-born Carlson is a professional musician and plays in the local bluegrass group Paw Coal and the Clinkers — which will be playing on the Plaza Community Stage in July as part of the free Santa Fe Bandstand summer music series. He earned a degree in environmental science at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, before getting his teaching certificate at the Santa Fe Community College.

The best thing about being a teacher, he said, is “being around kids all the time and engaging creatively in something I love.” His students are performing an acoustic Americana concert at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Back Road Pizza on Second Street.

Ayers, an Indiana native, worked as a welder, construction worker and retailer before he earned his degree at St. John’s College. He loves teaching, he said, because it gives him a “feeling that I am doing something of lasting worth.”

He said it will be a bittersweet feeling to attend the school’s upcoming graduation May 21 because the graduating seniors started with him as eighth-graders five years ago, when he first began teaching at the school.

Four more educators from other Santa Fe schools will be honored between now and early June, according to Ruthanne Greeley, executive director of Partners in Education.

Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or