PRICEVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Starting school for the first time can be really scary for a kid.
For one Priceville Elementary first-grader, who had previously been home schooled, the transition brought more than just fear. It also brought academic challenges.
"She would come to me crying' [saying] she didn't want to be at school," teacher Brandy Quattlebaum recalled, "She struggled a little bit. But I just gave her a hug and I said, 'You're gonna do so great.'"
That constant encouragement from Quattlebaum unlocked Swader's potential.
She's repeating the first grade and this time around, with all the extra help from her teacher, her reading and writing skills have flourished.
The progress, according to Swader's mom, has been remarkable.
"She's not struggling like that this year and she's like, 'Look mom! I'm doing so much better!'" Melinda Swader said.
For her dedicated focus on daughter Sommer, Swader thought Quattlebaum was a perfect "Tools for Teachers" candidate, so she sent in the nomination.
When WHNT News 19 surprised Quattlebaum with her award, she was busy conducting an "apple" experiment in her classroom - slicing them up, letting the kids taste different kinds, then graphing them on a chart.
It's the kind of assignment that makes school so much fun for Sommer, but Quattlebaum says her $319 award will likely go toward a different kind of apple - an Apple iPad.
"[We're in] a big technology push," Quattlebaum explained, "This will help a lot."