Hannibal Veterans Elementary School teacher Jennifer Welker was awarded the February WGEM Golden Apple Award.
Twelve years ago she helped the district begin its EIBI or Early and Intensive Behavioral Intervention program. She teaches kindergarten thru fifth grade students with autism and other special needs.
Welker leads the small classroom that offers students one-on-one teaching in academics and life skills.
"Just making a goal for these kiddos and watching them achieve it is almost like a greater benefit and joy than any other," Welker said. "Every goal is great, but these guys come so much farther and overcome so much more"
"I like Mrs. Jennifer because she give me prizes, and writes smilies down on my chart, and gives me a green star after I get all my smilies," student Dallas Jurado said.
District therapist Sherri Wiley sees Welker's passion in the classroom first hand.
"She's very determined, very goal orientated. There's not a behavior or an issue that we've had with a student that she hasn't been able to tackle and guide her team," Wiley said.
Welker says she has high expectations, but uses positive reinforcement to help her students learn and grow.
"Loving them and using reinforcement which is really what drives our program is how we are able to get there. You expect certain things, but you do it in a way that's reinforcing to the child so they want to work for you and want to learn," Welker said.
And despite the special challenges, they do.