When Carrie Power learned she had been named the S.C. Art Educator of the Year winner, she thought the recognition was specifically for elementary teachers.

To her surprise, the East Aiken Elementary School of the Arts teacher was recognized last week as the top art teacher overall during a banquet held by the S.C. Art Education Association.

Power has spent the past 26 years at East Aiken and played a major role in its designation as a School of the Arts five years ago. In 2002, she and physical education teacher Kathy Linton began discussing a process that would help children connect with each other through the arts.

“It’s about the importance of having comprehensive arts education for every child, including dance and theater,” Power said. “Arts integration also allows students to be able to apply it to what they’ve learning in math, writing and language arts.”

From the time Linton arrived at East Aiken 17 years ago, she and Power have collaborated on all things art. They earned masters degrees in arts education together.

The state award “is long, long, long overdue,” Linton said. “Carrie has done so much for our school. She has always been at other schools, too, teaching about arts integration. Sometimes I don’t know how she gets the energy, and I’ve got a lot of energy myself.”

Power’s most visible contributions to East Aiken may be the life-size, amusing robots that decorate the cafeteria and the hallway by her art room. She has worked with David Ciani, a metal fabrication shop owner and an East Aiken parent. He creates the robots out of spare parts. During the school year, Ciani helps children build their own robots.

“The kids will learn the different sciences like biology and also math and some engineering,” Power said in a previous interview.

Lisa Fallaw, now in her third year as East Aiken’s principal, describes Power as a master teacher.

“She’s an inspiration with all the technology, math and writing that she brings (to her classroom),” Fallaw said.