OSKALOOSA, Iowa — There’s a classroom at Oskaloosa Elementary School where love and laughter are always on the lesson plan. Every day in Megan Vande Voort’s first grade classroom begins with a hug and a laugh.

“I love being silly with my kids,” Vande Voort said. “I love to joke around with my kids and that’s how I really, truly start to win their hearts each and every day, each and every year.”

Last year, Mrs. Vande Voort’s supportive teaching style made a special impact on Annabelle Knudtson.

“Annie loved to learn in that kind of environment, grew to love school,” Alissa Knudtson, Annabelle’s mom, said. “She was very shy and timid in kindergarten and with Mrs. Vande Voort she became student of the month, and she jumped from needing a little extra help with reading to reading at a third grade level at the end of first grade.”

It’s why Alissa nominated Mrs. Vande Voort for a Golden Apple.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Vande Voort said when her name was called. “All the kids here, whether I’ve had you or not, we are lucky you’re here and I care about each and every one of you.”

There were more hugs for Mrs. Vande Voort, and even happy tears.

“I know that Mrs. Vande Voort inspired me to be a teacher,” her former student Annabelle said.

An educator inspiring the future generation.

“We need to make sure that our kids feel loved and welcomed and to know that they’re special,” Vande Voort said, “and that they have gifts in so many different areas.”

By being A positive light in their lives.

“My passion for loving on these kids and seeing where they go,” Vande Voort said. “My first class that I taught in first grade graduated a couple years ago and I just thought ‘oh my goodness, I can’t wait to see what you do with your life.’ And it has just been so fun to continue to watch these kids grow and mature and just do amazing things.”

This is Mrs. Vande Voort’s 14th year as an educator. Watch her full interview below: