CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Ellen Hutchins said caring for her two brothers with Down syndrome led to her love of teaching those with special needs. She carried that desire into the classroom where she has spent 35 years, 25 as a math teacher at Unaka High School.

“I love these kids,” Hutchins said. “I’m hoping that I’m making a positive impact on their lives.”

Hutchins instructs about 20 students each day in math.

“She is the senior member special ed department here, but she’s also the chair of the special ed department,” Unaka High School Principal Mike Ensor said. “That is our most veteran group that has stayed together the longest.”

Hutchins strives to make math fun for her students. On some days, she holds competitions with prizes to keep students engaged.

“Maybe it’s something they don’t understand in their regular math class, but we can go over it, and they can see it in a different way and then watching them realize that they can do it,” she said.

Her can-do spirit is apparent by the inspirational quotes from students and teachers that are posted all over the classroom, including Hutchins’s favorite from her father: “Remember who you are.”

“They serve as a reminder for the kids in here that we all have words that we live by,” Hutchins said. “Words that mean something to us.”

Congratulations to Ellen Hutchins on being this week’s Educator of the Week.