Unimpressed with her college communications classes and hanging out with education major friends persuaded Laura Russo to check out a different kind of class.
"I had an amazing professor for my special education class, and after completing that course, I knew that that was what I was meant to do," said the 2013 Yavapai County Teacher of the Year in Cross Grades category.
Russo, a resource math teacher at Bradshaw Mountain Middle School, said she was amazed at the variety and number of areas that fell under the umbrella of special education. Forging personal relationships with her students is what makes her career so rewarding, she added.
"I've been blessed enough to have students for two or more years in a row, and I love how well we know each other at the end of that time," she said.
A physically active person herself, Russo brings movement into her classroom with lessons and activities that keep students active and engaged in their learning.
When asked about making a positive change in education, Russo said if she knew of a way to show students' growth and progress without so much testing, that's what she would implement.
"Right now testing is one of the only ways to assess those things, but it takes a lot of out of my students. I would change it if there was something better to replace it with," she said.
Russo completes her 12th year in education this year, and plans to earn her master's degree in the future.
"Although I currently teach middle school, I have become increasingly interested and excited about early childhood education. So I will, more than likely, go back to school to get my master's in that area," she said.