At the Teacher of the Year award ceremony in Martinsburg High School's library, rain pounded on the roof as the five finalists were announced. In addition to Cartee, other nominees were Stephen Dellinger, a first-grade teacher at Tomahawk Elementary School; Ellen Houston, a fifth-grade teacher at Eagle School Intermediate; Laura Jackson, a first-grade teacher at Winchester Avenue Elementary; and Cindy Thomas, a math teacher at Hedgesville High School.
"You are the best of the best," Board of Education President Bill Queen told the nominees. "You're all teachers of the year as far as I'm concerned."
Of receiving the honor, Cartee said later that he was "shocked. Absolutely bowled over because of the competition."
He will be eligible for the state's Teacher of the Year honor, along with each winner from West Virginia's 54 other counties.
Thirty years ago to the day, Cartee put on an Air Force uniform for the first time, he said Thursday evening. He retired as a lieutenant colonel after serving for 22 years.
While in the military, Cartee taught aerospace science at the University of Alabama. After he retired, teaching seemed to be an obvious career choice, he said. His wife, Cynthia, is also a teacher and currently works at Potomac Intermediate School.
With ROTC, Cartee said he focuses on citizenship, self-discipline and leadership. Upper level students - once shy freshmen themselves - teach a class to first-year members.
About 30 to 40 ROTC members graduate each year, with eight or nine entering the military. Three this year got military scholarships, Cartee said.
Cartee's son Sam, 22, went through the ROTC program at Martinsburg High School. He graduated from West Virginia University as a second lieutenant.
"Today is his first day of active duty with the Air Force," Cartee said between handshakes and voiced congratulations.
Cartee said he plans to continue teaching until he's either kicked out or he decides it's time to get an RV and traverse the country.
Along with teaching in Berkeley County, Cartee is an adjunct professor at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, W.Va., Frederick Community College, and Potomac State College of WVU in Keyser, W.Va.
"It's been a great year. Tough to top this one," he said.