Educating young students comes naturally to Heidi Hilmes, who's now in her fifth year teaching at Fairview Elementary School in Anchorage. The truth is, teaching runs in her blood.

"I've always wanted to be a teacher," said Hilmes. "My parents [were] both teachers for the Anchorage School District, so I just grew up around that. And, I mean my first job when I was young was babysitting. I always knew I liked to help out with younger kids."

Hilmes teaches kindergarten, but spent the previous four years working with the Title I preschool program at Fairview.

"It's amazing. When most of our families at Fairview, their children, their young children don't always have the opportunity to go to a preschool outside of the Anchorage School District," explained Hilmes. "Our Title I preschools teach the social-emotional skills [students] need for learning. [Educators] teach pre-academic skills and they just get them ready to have a routine and be in a classroom."

Hilmes said her main mission is making sure students are prepared for the long journey of academia. She said she's able to reach her students because she takes the time to develop relationships.

"If you don't have a positive relationship with [students], they're not going to want to hear what you're saying. They're not going to want to learn," Hilmes said. "So having a first really good relationship with their kindergarten teacher, and I mean preschool for me with a lot of these kids, was a really, it's a really big step in getting them setup for success for the rest of their school age career."

It all begins with the right learning environment: a positive and encouraging one.

Hilmes says Fairview has instituted new curriculum called Mind Up.

"It's a big [lesson] for teaching how your brain affects your body and your feelings and your emotions, and just how everything works together as one," she said, "and that helps with self regulation." 

She educates through a mutual trust, while fostering a love of learning. 

"Curiosity, believing in themselves, and knowing that somebody at the school loves them and cares about them," Hilmes explained.