Danielle Peterson of Rockton is in her 14th year of teaching at Prairie Hill School, where she has taught K-2, been a Special Education Resource teacher, and now teaches Blended Pre-K (regular and special education for children ages 3-6). Prairie Hill Kindergarten teacher and Golden Apple Academy member Shannon Fisher says Danielle has “one of those teacher hearts that you only read about but rarely have the privilege to observe, much less work with. Danielle helped build our phenomenal preschool program, and made the transition from resource teacher to preschool teacher seamlessly.” She often provides parents’ first experience with sending a child to school, so she makes it her goal to provide a good one, and to make sure that at the end of the year, her students are ready for kindergarten. Principal Kevin Finnegan wrote that “nothing seems too unexpected for her.” Whether she is changing diapers, modeling peer relationships, building motor skills, emphasizing language, comforting someone, teaching letters and numbers or designing an engaging classroom, he says, “she has to do it, and somehow she manages to do so gracefully.” A student’s parent wrote in a recommendation letter about how pleased she is that her shy daughter was able to come out of her shell in Danielle’s class. “I cannot imagine my daughter's first year of school going any better … she would go to school seven days a week if she could! And it's all because of Mrs. Peterson and the environment she fosters.” Danielle expects and respects each student’s thoughts and views, creating a place in which each student feels valued and safe to share. The parent added that, “Mrs. Peterson has something about her. It's totally unexplainable or describable but children instinctively trust her. She has an innate way of communicating with kids.” She also communicates well with her peers and her students’ parents. The parent further compared Danielle’s stellar stream of communication to parents as enabling them to feel “like a fly on the wall”! Danielle’s love of teaching is evident in the essay she submitted. Rather than saying, “I have to,” or “I do,” she starts several sentences with “I get to”: “I get to see their excitement when they recognize a number or letter for the first time; I get to hear all their stories; I get to help them figure out how they can solve problems.” She also says, “if you don’t love what you do and don’t love teaching and learning, you can’t teach your students to love learning, which is one of my number one priorities.” During centers/small groups, her students think they are playing with their friends, yet this is when most of the learning and love of learning happens. They learn letters, numbers, direction following skills and more, through games, tasks and craft projects. The students “are the reason [I] love teaching … I want them to be proud of me because they consistently make me proud."