Reeves Larson didn't know Wal-Mart selected a teacher of the year -- until he was named it earlier this month.
"It's a really big pat on the back that I wasn't expecting at all," he said.
The teacher of the year is determined by students who cast their votes in a booth set up in the store.
"That's the coolest part," said Larson, an English and media teacher at Carson High School. "It's the kids you actually work with every day who pick you.
"That's obviously the whole reason we're here -- for the kids. When they give something like this back, it's a huge honor."
The winner is selected not only by number of votes, but also the comments of the students written on the ballots.
One of Larson's ballots read:
"He is my mentor and got me to stop using drugs. I have learned so much from him."
Another student wrote:
"He is the greatest teacher and is always willing to help each and even gives up his free time to assist in our education."
Larson, a Vermont native, moved to Carson City four years ago after several years of short-lived stays in various Western states.
Although he earned a bachelor's degree in education and a minor in psychology from the University of Wyoming, he worked at a series of odd jobs including landscape, maintenance, day care and was an ice cream man.
During that time, he also worked as a teacher in a children's home and as a community education coordinator and ski coach.
He started teaching full-time in Bozeman, Mont., where he taught special education for two years and psychology for one.
At a job fair in Missoula, Mont., he met Carson High School principal Glen Adair who persuaded him to come and work at the foot of the Sierra.
And he's glad he did.
"This is the best teaching job I've ever had," Larson said. "Having seen so many other schools, Carson High School is far and above probably 90 percent of the schools in the country. It's worth staying here."
And he's found another reason to stay.
Larson, 32, plans to marry Shauna Alexander, an art teacher at Carson Middle School, on Aug. 2.
The two were childhood friends and were reunited two years ago when they were both visiting family in Vermont.
Alexander was living in Portland, but was considering a move to Incline Village.
"By the end of the summer, she definitely decided to move here," Larson said. "The next year, the job at the middle school opened up."
Larson has been coaching the ski team, but is taking this year off to buy a house and plan for the wedding.