Sandra Ehlers began her teaching career about 15 years ago in the Lower Yukon School District. While there, she learned some valuable lessons.

"You really become part of the community and then your classroom becomes its own community,” said Ehlers.

Two years ago, she aimed to bring that close community atmosphere to her 5th-grade classroom at Ptarmigan Elementary School. It’s a community that often feels more like family.

“Students flat out tell me they love me and I tell them I love them. One of my kids calls me mom,” explained Ehlers.

Her students feel connected to Ehlers because she takes the time to get to know them.

“You have to build relationships with these kids. Every kid is different and some of them, the relationships come just like that. Others you really have to work for,” said Ehlers.

Making those connections is just part of her success. Another reason is her ability to clearly set expectations.

“Teach them your expectations. Let them know their consequences and you stick to that. You keep reviewing that and do it every day, all day for the whole year and you end up with a good finished product,” Said Ehlers.

Prior to her teaching career, Ehlers worked for the US Forest Service in Idaho where she fought fires and helped plant new trees afterward.

She would eventually move back home to Oregon to get her teaching degree, before making the move to Alaska.

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