Teach for America transplant now calls the Tennessee Valley home

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - This week's Tools for Teachers honoree hails from Pennsylvania, brought to J.O. Johnson High School by the Teach for America program three years ago. But because of the love for her students, the school, and Huntsville, Emily Heller now calls the Tennessee Valley home.

It's that commitment that makes her so popular among the Johnson High community, and why one student in particular wanted to say thanks by nominating Ms. Heller for this award.

Keyana Lewis, a student at Johnson, told us in her nomination letter that Ms. Heller gives of her time beyond the school day, organizing study sessions for AP exams at Starbucks.  Heller tells us these coffee sessions have a purpose beyond just motivating kids to study; she also wants them to make interpersonal connections with each other.

"It's become like, 'I need to study; you need to study.  Miss Heller is at Starbucks. We don't know each other, but let's both go,'" Heller says.

Inside the classroom, Heller promotes a safe, comfortable environment where everyone can learn.

"I think sometimes craziness is going on in their lives," Heller tells us, "but allowing them to come into a classroom, and to be around me -- a calm and safe space -- has been extremely successful."

If you know a worthy teacher, coach, principal, or aide, tell us about them through the Tools for Teachers nomination form.