Walking into miss Kelli Stice's class at McNeill Elementary School means experiencing an interesting first grade classroom experience.
Principal Debbie Ecton says Kelli exemplifies what many refer to as a natural teaching spirit.
Ecton says "she has just the instincts to know how to connect with children and when you look for a natural teacher you look for someone who can inspire and make that connection with the children."
She says teaching is her true passion and she strives to connect with each student by showing them compassion and acceptance.
She says these values are the basis for achieving academic excellence.
Kelli says "I think children have to feel being loved before they can move on to a higher level of thinking."
In addition to providing a positive learning environment for her first graders, Kelli tries to reach each student by studying gender and cultural differences in learning so that she can help each student overcome their particular obstacle.
She regularley attends state conferences and recently obtained a national board certification for educators.
Principal Ecton says Kelli doesn't put limitations on her students. She teaches them computer software programs such as Microsoft Power Point and excel.
Kelli says the only limits children have are the ones that are put on them.
Kelli says although she's honored to be one of Kentucky's best teachers, her students are still what matter most.
Principal Debbie Ecton says Kelli's former students constantly come back to the school to visit her.
She also says Kelli's achievement is an honor for McNeill elementary as well as the entire teaching profession.
This marks the fifth year the Department of Education and Ashland Incorporated have jointly honored Kentucky educators.