Inspired by his mom to try an education class, Jason Crader, a fifth grade teacher at Carver Elementary, fell in love with education as a junior in college. “I took the class, really liked it, and immediately changed my major.”

Since then, his love of teaching has only grown.

“I love helping students find new interests and encouraging them to chase after their dreams. When I see students succeed, I know I made the right career choice.”

In fact, he got the chance to cheer on two of his students as they succeeded in a big way. “My favorite memory from recent years is being invited to Cambridge, Mass. to watch two of my former fifth grade students graduate from Harvard University ... Getting to be there to watch them graduate will go down as a highlight of my teaching career.” To say he was proud is an understatement.

Crader’s genuine investment in his students’ success is evident in his extensive involvement in his school, even beyond the classroom.

For example, he’s a teacher in the 21st Century After School program, teaches photography two days a week after school, teaches the Stock Market Game to students two days a week after school, and leads the Young Gents Club. Monthly he creates school-wide STEAM activities and he organizes House Meetings (yes, think Harry Potter) for all students to meet and discuss social skills.

Fifteen years ago, he created the Mathletes Challenge for the Little Rock School District as a fun way to help students in the District prepare for the math portion of the state’s mandated assessments. “Thousands of students have competed in this through the years and it brings me great joy to host this event each year.”

In the end, Crader has his eye on what’s best for his students. “I do all of these extra things to help build relationships between our staff and students. Building a positive relationship with your students and their families is the most important thing an educator can do. A solid, positive relationship is the foundation for academic success.”

Outside of school, Crader recently discovered a new hobby ­— running. “I never liked running when I played sports in high school.” But in 2016, he decided to challenge himself and train for a marathon. “While training for it, I started to fall in love with running long distances. After running that first marathon on the last day of 2016, I set a New Year’s resolution to run one marathon a month during 2017.” And based on what you know of Jason Crader so far, do you think he followed through? Yes, yes he did.

Crader’s dedication and disciplined devotion to running parallels the determination and grit he offers his students. With every club meeting, Mathlete competition and STEAM lesson, he lives out one of the many secrets of teaching: growing up is not a sprint. Each valuable lesson we encounter as we grow is learned stride by stride, mile after mile.

And in every facet of his career, Jason Crader goes the extra mile.

Do you know a central Arkansas teacher who works hard every day to inspire his or her students to learn, reach goals and dream? Click here and nominate him or her for one of our 2021 Amazing Educator Awards!

See more of this year's Amazing Educators.