Sandie Albritton has taught in many different places during her 17 year career in education.

Her husband has retired from the military, but his active duty has taken their family from Utah to Virginia to Warner Robbins and finally to Newton County.

"This is it," Albritton said. "We're not moving again."

Albritton's vibrant personality keeps students in any state focused in her eighth grade mathematics classes.

"I tell jokes all the time," Albritton said. "I have to keep them interested or they won't pay attention and they won't learn."

Albritton said she loves math and she loves middle school students. She student-taught in second grade and realized she didn't have a nursery rhyme mind-set needed for teaching lower elementary grades.

She enjoys having to adjust at a moment's notice because of the moodiness of 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds.

"They're just walking hormones," Albritton said.

Albritton tries to transfer her enthusiasm for mathematics to all of her students.

"I like watching a kid at the beginning of the year come in hating math," Albritton said, "and leaving at the end of the year loving and feeling very comfortable with it."

A student's score on the eighth grade reading and math portions of the Criterion Referenced Competency Tests taken in the spring determine whether he or she can advance to high school.

Albritton said she and other Clements math teachers try to alleviate some of the stress students may feel leading up to the exams.

"We remind them constantly that if they are in the room working, they're going to be fine," Albritton said. "As teachers we're always looking at our data at where our problem areas are, so we can see what we need to focus on."

Her classroom motto is "math rocks."

When a computer technician at Clements teased her by saying "computers rock," Albritton had her students gather rocks from around the school and write the word "math" on them.

Some were given to the computer technician, others were kept by the students to remind them - especially if they struggled with math in high school - that math was fun in the eighth grade.

Sometimes students don't understand why they have to learn a particular tenet of mathematics, so Albritton steps in to try to rationalize it for them.

For instance, when students began moaning about the need to know square roots by memory, Albritton explained how carpenters - even into the early twentieth century - needed to know square roots to create carpenter squares.

She gave them all a carpenter square pattern and soon the students could rattle off any number's square roots.

Also, to help students perform operations in their heads Albritton has invited a guest speaker she calls a human calculator.

Albritton said her biggest challenges are having enough time to work through the curriculum and stocking her classroom with sometimes expensive mathematics manipulatives.

"Sometimes children come to school and don't even have the money to buy pencils and paper," Albritton said.

She must make sure the children have the supplies they need, which sometimes means dipping into her own pocket.

Albritton also serves as Clements teacher leader in the county's professional learning program "Teachers as Leaders." She attends workshops with teachers from the system's other schools and then relays the information to teachers at Clements.

Sylvia Jordan, Clements' principal, encouraged Albritton to apply to be the teacher of the year from the school. Her colleagues selected her as Clements' 2008 Teacher of the Year.

"That to me is a vote of confidence," Albritton said. "Even if I don't get another award in my life, it won't matter because to me this means the most."

Albritton said her students are the things she loves most about her job.

"Every year I give birth to 120 new students, and I tell them I'm their mama and I tell them they can come to me with anything," Albritton said. "It's painfully hard to see them walk out the door at the end of the year and go on to high school."

While it's difficult to say goodbye, student advancement is how Albritton knows she has succeeded in her job and makes her heart swell.