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MORTON GROVE, Ill. — She’s a teacher who is laser-focused on making learning fun. Mrs. Laura Hansen loves to see the growth that happens in first grade.

“We really work hard to create a community,” she said. “So every day they’re excited to come in and want to be at school and learn.”

Hansen is now in her sixth year at Park View School in Morton Grove.

“This school year is different than previous school years pre-covid,” she said. “But I’m really working hard to make sure this is the most normal year they can have. They’re only in first grade once and I want it to be the most amazing first-grade experience they can have.”

She said she’s always loved being around kids and witnessing their transformation — socially and academically.

Her favorite subject to teach is reading.

“I love the growth they make in reading (and) seeing their brains make the connections like ‘This letter makes this sound. And when you put them together this happens,’” she said. “And seeing the patterns and words when they start to read books.”

Hansen directs her approach around fun.

“I try to make learning as fun as possible,” she said. “When we can play games to apply what we’ve learned it kind of sticks more. And when they can teach each other it means the learning is really cemented. So we try to do as much of that as well.”

7-year-old Tommy Alper nominated her for Teacher of the Month.

“She’s the best teacher ever and every day she makes me smile,” he said.

Award sponsor Ankin Law presented her with $1,000 check for the school.

Hansen said she wants her first graders to be confident and proud of the work they’re doing.  And she says seeing them smiling, happy, and engaged is the biggest reward.

“I feel like we’re a family a little first-grade community in our classroom so I feel the same way about them that they’re the best and it’s kind of nice to hear in return,” Hansen said.

Hansen said she would like to use the award money to support stem learning in her classroom.