West Columbia, SC (WLTX) - In Sommer Hoffman's class every child has a chance to learn the way that works best for them.
"You're really changing lives, we're trying, we're trying," she says.
She teaches a combined group of kindergarten and first-grade students at Congaree Wood Early Childhood Center whose road to education may at times seem to be all uphill.
"Autism, bipolar [disorder], developmental delays or just kids that couldn't quite make it in the regular classroom so they come in here with us for some extra help until we can get them back ready for regular ed again."
Each student works their hardest to master a different challenge. Ms. Hoffman's kids call her by her first name because when you're dealing with a speech delay--Ms Summer is a lot easier to say than Ms. Hoffman.
"Being a teacher is a blessing and it truly is a gift from God and especially to work with special needs children," Hoffman says.
Hoffman's been in the classroom for 15 years, the last eight at Congaree Wood Early Childhood, where parents such as Teresa Kenyon can't say enough about what she's doing.
"She goes way beyond being just a teacher in the classroom," Kenyon says. "She's been through two of my children who have autism and neither of them talked until they came here."
She says her son, Robert, couldn't hold a pencil very well at first; now, he's able to hold a pencil and draw.
"I'm so proud to have her not only as my son's teacher but as a part of our family," Kenyon says. "She's got a place in our heart that's unreal."
"The love that y'all give and the love that we get back from these kids is plenty,' Hoffman says. "That's all I deserve"
Well, News19 though she deserved a little more, and through our Golden Apple Teacher Award with Bi-Lo, she got a special gift basket.
"Flexibility, patience, caring and love," Hoffman says. "You have to love 'em and you have to be creative in how you teach em."
If you know of a deserving teacher who should get the Golden Apple Award, you can nominate them here.