This week is recognized nationally as Teacher Appreciation Week, which is fitting, seeing how Amber Hays of Valley Pathways High School in Palmer is revered and appreciated by all of her students.

"I think a kid is going to be more willing to work for you and want to learn if you care about them," she said.

While there are many paths a student can take on the road to graduation, Hays' students say they are blessed that their road runs through her classroom.

"You're not just like a number, like you are in bigger schools," said junior Jeremy Sanchez. "You're in part of a major family. They're all connected, they all get each other."

Valley Pathways is an alternative high school that offers students smaller class sizes, enabling teachers to better connect with students.

Hays has freedom in how she's able teach, encouraging creative energy in her photography class and creative thinking in her current issues class.

"We've done so many projects where they have gotten to tell their stories," she said. "I think I'd want them to remember that they're important."

The message is simple: Every child's story is important and if you show that you care, everyone will get the most out their time in the classroom.

"I like being around these kids," Hays said. "I like getting to know them. I like being in the classroom. I like being excited about learning and trying to facilitate that in students."

This is Hays' first year as a full-time teacher, but she's been preparing for this for almost two decades. She had twins after graduate school and after two more decided to be a stay-at-home mom, substitute teaching on and off for 17 years.

Hays says she believes Valley Pathways is the right place for her, appreciating the opportunity to work alongside amazing educators and mentors, while teaching students who she says are very special.

Making every child in her classroom feel at home, Amber Hays is KTVA's Head of the Class.

Know an educator who deserves recognition? Nominate them for KTVA's Head of the Class.

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