Second grade is a special time in a child's life. Math is much more than just adding and subtracting, and reading skills really take off.
But while learning is more complex, these kids are still little kids and they need a strong teacher to help them through the changes, some unexpected, and some very unexpected.
Our third 16 Excellence in Education award goes to a North Liberty Elementary teacher who handles the highs and the lows of life with ease.
Step into Andrew Mishler's second grade classroom and you'll see happy kids, and maybe even one sweet dog.
"I just read and do my best, and this is why we have Mowgli in," said 2nd grader Willow Gilliam.
Mowgli is just one of the treats the kids can earn when they reach their reading goals. They just love his tricks.
"We do stuff the fun way, and it's great," said Luke Stuart.
There are lessons that resemble a TV game show or field trips to the Mishler Family Farm in Bremen.
"It was for the fall party. He had bounce houses there, and we went on a tractor ride," said Owen Minnick.
Luke Stuart loves his teacher so much he dresses like him every day. Well, kind of.
Luke isn't the only future teacher in this class.
"He's been doing this really cool stuff. And I want to do it when I'm a teacher."
"Well, Mr. Mishler, he's gave me ideas that I want to do when I'm a teacher someday."
Skyler Ernsberger has come a long way this year. He fell behind when his mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She passed away at the beginning of the year.
"I had to miss a couple of days of school because I had to go to my mom's funeral and all that," said Ernsberger.
"That's hard to stay positive and try to keep the kids positive. And keep them focused on school, also," said Mr. Mishler.
A tough time made easier by Mr. Mishler. But little did anyone know there would be another tragedy for this class.
Katelyn Braun's father pased away too.
Despite her pain. Katelynn came back to school partly because of the love and support of her teacher.
"We had a lot of sharing circles where you were free to share what ever you needed to, whatever you needed to get off your mind. If you needed a hug, there's a hug available."
"He was very respectful. He treats these kids like they're his family," said Shannon Stuart, the person who nominated Mr. Mishler.
"They will never forget him. The parents will never forget him. We can't thank him enough," said Stuart.
"The school year these kids have made me realize that anything is possible. With encouragement, with positive motivation. That you can get the kids to do anything you want to as long as you are willing to put the effort and the sacrifice behind it," said Mr. Mishler, "These kids have really proven that this year."
Proving that this classroom is one special place for learning about life.