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PALATINE, Ill. — For Ms. Haley Little, good things come in threes.

“I love numbers that end in three. I’ve always liked third grade. I got to be room 13,” she said.

She always knew she wanted to be a teacher.

“I always loved my teachers,” she said. “I just thought they were so cool and so put together and organized. I just wanted to be just like them. Then it was actually when I got older, fifth grade and beyond, I had some teachers where I unfortunately didn’t feel like I wanted to come to school. I wasn’t as excited or engaged in the classroom. And that kind of fueled my passion for teaching.”

 At Stuart R. Paddock Elementary School in Palatine, she says her goal is to create the kind of classroom students can’t wait to come to everyday.

 And Hana Abdic and her mom Mersiha say Little set the tone from the beginning of the school year.

 “Miss Little is kind, generous,” Hana said.  “She has a lot of wisdom in her. She’s fun.”

“She sent parents a video introducing herself,” Mersiha said. “She did a song and a little dance. I just knew there and then this teacher is fantastic. She is awesome!”

 Little led her students through the ups and downs of the school year. Due to the pandemic, they were transitioning from in-person learning, back to virtual, then in-person again. She encourages a love of reading and gives students helpful strategies for common core math and also focusing on their social and emotional wellbeing.

“I think classroom community was the name of the game this year,” she said.

Before winter break, she took the time to visit each of her students in person at home.

“And when she came to our house, those 15 minutes social distancing with masks, it meant so much to me as a parent,” Mersiha  Abdic said. “It meant that she was fully invested in her work.”

“It was exciting and I got to see her, like her car and I’m like, ‘Ahhh it’s so cool!’ I never saw her car,” Hana said.

I remember that I can do third grade every year, but for this group of students I remember that this is there one chance at third grade, so I wanted to make sure that even though it was a Covid year and it was different that this was still the best third grade they could have.

Ms. Haley Little, 3rd Grade teacher

Award sponsor Kenneth Allen gave Little $1000 dollar check for the school. For the attorney, it’s a personal mission to recognize educators.

“My dad grew up with a 4th grade education,” he said. “He made me promise before he passed, he died when I was a teenager, that I would finish school. … But I can tell you honestly there were many times when I thought I wasn’t going to finish or go back. And that promise came back to my mind. But equally important, the wonderful teachers that have inspired all of us at one time or another in our lives, took us under their and pointed us in the right direction. It made a big difference to me and like teachers of the month, Ms Little this month, I owe them all a big debt of gratitude.”

As the school year winds down, she wants these little leaders to leave her class being kind, cooperative and respectful – a trio of qualities they can spread to the world.

“I feel like there’s not many careers you can do where you can see the difference you’re making every day,” she said.