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An academic aptitude
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Jamie Savage - second grade teacher at Porterdale Elementary School - has only taught for five years, so the young educator was thrilled to find her colleagues had selected her as Porterdale's 2008 Teacher of the Year.

"It's a big honor," Savage said.

Savage said she has always known she wanted to teach.

"When I was in third grade, our teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grow up," Savage said, "and I said I wanted to do it and stuck with it."

Her grandmother also encouraged her to pursue a degree in teaching because she had always wanted to, but never had the opportunity.

Savage taught first grade her first three years out of school, but said she prefers second grade now because students are more independent.

As a classroom teacher and substitute at Porterdale's After School Academy, or afternoon tutoring program, she advocates small group work and rotating centers to keep children on task.

"I try to keep them busy - not just sitting in their desks," Savage said. "I don't stand and lecture."

She also tries to incorporate games into every subject whenever possible.

According to Savage, by giving students plenty to do, it gives them less time to behave badly.

In addition to compiling brag books - collecting compliments from others toward a party - Savage gives her students marbles for staying on task. So many marbles equals a "marble party."

Savage said positive reinforcement is generally more effective than punishing negative behavior.

She said already in her five years of teaching, she has learned education is an extremely demanding field.

 "Probably one of the hardest things is seeing students come from home lives that may not be the best," Savage said, "and in the small time I have with them, make a positive impact on them."

 Despite the many challenges, Savage said she loves after Christmas when students come back to school understanding things they did not before the break. She said something about the holiday break makes difficult lessons sink into students' minds.

 For now Savage is simply teaching, rather than trying to earn one of the many degrees available for teachers to increase their salaries.

 "I definitely will stay in education," Savage said. "I couldn't imagine leaving education, but I maybe want to explore my options - maybe elementary counseling."

Savage said she loves the hugs and drawings from students associated with being a second grade teacher.

She also enjoys students and parents coming by to visit her - some every morning - after they have graduated from her class.

Students in Savage's first, first grade students are now in fifth grade and will be unable to pop in every morning. While she will miss those students, she said the beauty of teaching is each year you have the opportunity to touch more young lives.

"The best part of being a teacher is seeing the ones, especially from bad situations, seeing their face light up when they figure something out and their smiles," Savage said, "smiles from ones who may not come in here with one."