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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Teaching is a dream job for Maple Grove Elementary’s Natalie Ingram. She has taught for years, but each time she steps into her classroom, Ingram is reminded of why teaching is so deeply personal.

Ingram’s classroom is a special place. It’s where students thrive and parents’ minds are put at ease.

“She is that teacher every parent wants for their child,” says Becky Ball. Her son, Lakota, has autism. The bond their family has built with Ms. Ingram is unbreakable.

“It’s hard to trust people and I’ve given my whole trust to her. Especially with a non-verbal kid they can’t tell you what’s going on and she’s been amazing in helping him out so much,” Ball says.

The teacher has helped out so many students in the nine years she’s worked as a special education teacher in the Waukee Community School District.

“She is one of those who always has her phone on and is always connected to school but for her, it’s not as much as it is her life’s purpose and life mission,” says Maple Grove Elementary School Principal, Kim Tierney. 

The passion she has for helping those with special needs and their families stems from her own family. Ingram’s sister has special needs.

“So many of our kids have strengths that are amazing, and they are going to go on and do amazing things and I just think it’s important for others to see that.”

Take a look at the full interview with Ingram below:

You can check out the other winners of the Golden Apple Award here.