For Michelle Mones, teaching first grade at Tioga Hills Elementary is more than just a job.

"This is my happy place," said Mones.

The first grade teacher began teaching 20 years ago at the first grade level. However Mones stepped away from teaching for over a decade to help raise her family as well as other factors.

After substituting at her son's school for a brief amount of time she took a job as a fifth grade teacher. Although not first grade it was still good to be back teaching full time Mones said. 

"there has never been a doubt," said Mones. "Teaching is what I have always wanted to do."

A first grade spot opened up and Mones would go back down to the level where she started 20 years ago and says her motto she uses comes from a family aspect.

"If a child does not feel loved and if a child does not feel safe, they are not going to learn," said Mones.

One thing Mones also enjoys teaching to her class is empathy and seeing the response by her students at such a young age.

"It really is amazing to see how they can in their mind switch," said Mones in regards to understanding how students act or feel could be different compared to her other students.

Adding empathy and other components Mones says will continue to add on to the family motto within the class. 

"A family is forgiving and loving, and all of those pieces," said Mones. "They really do an amazing job with it".

For the first grade teacher though it is not just seeing her students grow day by day; but the 11 years following teaching them when they graduate high school.

"There is nothing more fulfilling than going to a high school graduation and seeing your kids walk across that stage and know they they are starting their own lives and you were a part of that." 

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