CAPRON (WREX) — Serena Brettschneider was born and raised in Poplar Grove and was ready to make her way back home after finishing college.
However, after graduating, she didn't get a job as easily as she hoped.
Work did eventually come around and it ended up putting her on a completely different teaching path.
"I started actually being a para in a multi-need special ed classroom and I fell in love," Brettschneider said.
"I loved working with the kids. I loved the routine the kids needed and you had to provide them so they had a normal day."
The experience led to Brettschneider going back to school to get her LBS1 for special education.
After a couple of years teaching in the Quad Cities, she was able to make it back to the stateline as a special education teacher at Capron Elementary School.
Mrs. B, as she is called by her students, is able to make a strong connection with kids thanks to one big common ground.
A love of Disney.
Mrs. B is such a fan of the "happiest place on Earth" that she challenges students at the beginning of the year to guess how many Mickey Mouse ears cover her classroom.
Disney is more than just decoration though.
It's become a central theme in Mrs. B's lesson plan.
"Disney movies were my thing as a kid. I just like that it's an innocent way to teach a life lesson but still have it be fun," Brettschneider said.
"It's the happiest place on Earth so why not bring a little bit of that into my classroom every day."
One of the ways she incorporates that magical feeling is by giving out "WOWS."
WOWS are little colored balls used to motivate kids to stay focused in class.
A former teacher came up with the idea and Mrs. B has put her own spin on it to help her kids feel wonderful.
"Our regular WOW's are worth one point and our sparkly ones are worth two and the kids love to earn the sparklies. Every Friday, they get to count their WOWS and if they have 30 or more they get to pick a prize," Brettschneider said.
Aside from earning treats and rewards, the WOWS serve a lot of purposes.
They help the kids learn to count and skip count with the sparkly WOWS teaching students how to count by twos.
Beyond academics, the WOWS show kids the importance of trying their best and how not working hard isn't the way to go.
"If they do have an off day and lets say they don't earn a sparkly WOW that day, they can generally tell me right away they know why they didn't earn it," Brettschneider said.
"It's nice to see that they can understand the consequences of when I don't do my hardest and I don't try my best and don't put all my effort in then I don't get all the WOWS that I normally would have."
Mrs. B is dedicated to providing a fun, positive atmosphere for her kids.
Her drive stems from when she was in elementary school where her experience was anything but enjoyable.
"I was the kid that was picked on and teased. I didn't like school for a really long time until certain teachers came into my life and that made a big difference," Brettschneider said.
Mrs. B wants to make a difference in her students' lives.
A mission that earned her Teacher of the Week honors.
"It feels pretty awesome. I always hope that I am impacting my kids in a positive way, but to see a parent feels the same way and see where my passion comes from with all of my kiddos is a really good feeling," Brettschneider said.